What's next for Blue Plains?

In December, EPA issued a draft pollution discharge permit for the Blue Plains Wastewater Treatment Plant that mandated an annual load limit of 4.689 million pounds, the cap needed to meet Chesapeake Bay restoration goals – the new limit would require a reduction of more than 1 million pounds from their existing annual loads. Blue Plains will need to upgrade its plant in order to comply with the new, more stringent limits.

That's the good news.

The bad news is that EPA did not include a compliance schedule -- timelines and milestones for the plant upgrade -- in the draft permit that has been out for public review (the comment period ends today). Instead they have indicated they will put the schedule into "another legally enforceable document," likely by modifying the existing consent decree between EPA and the DC Water & Sewer Authority. A consent decree cannot be challenged the way a permit can. Therefore, EPA has cut the public out of the opportunity to review and comment on either Blue Plains' schedule for upgrading or on the interim limits to be set (if any) until the upgrade is complete.

Did you know… The Blue Plains wastewater treatment plant, located in Washington, DC is, by far, the largest point source of nitrogen and phosphorus pollution in the Chesapeake Bay watershed.  In fact, according to EPA, it is the largest advanced wastewater treatment plant in the world. The plant has a design capacity to treat 370 million gallons of sewage per day and on average, it discharges more than 6 million pounds of nitrogen per year into the Potomac River.

Municipalities engage in improving water quality standards

Maryland state employees met with local planners Wednesday to hash out steps for improving water-quality standards. "As populations grow, it's that much more difficult to get control of the nutrients," said Jim George of the Maryland Department of the Environment. "The key concept here is that we need to offset the new sources of pollution. Neither the state nor the local government can do this alone."

Busch, O'Malley Pledge to Revive the Bay

Maryland House Speaker Michael Busch said the restoration of native oysters would be a top environmental priority this year. Besides more money for oyster restoration, lawmakers pledged to join other states in requiring cleaner emissions from new cars, and would consider ways to encourage renewable sources of energy.

"With the Chesapeake Bay's very survival imperiled by poorly planned sprawl and a multitude of other manmade ills -- from stormwater runoff to broken sewer systems -- we have a possibility of rescuing this natural jewel," O'Malley said. O'Malley's choice to lead the state environmental agency, Shari T. Wilson, also reaffirmed that the administration would usher in a "BayStat" program to monitor water quality and instill accountability.