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.