BALTIMORE, MD (June 9, 2005) – Governor Robert L. Ehrlich, Jr., and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Regional Administrator Donald S. Welsh today announced another landmark step in the Chesapeake Bay restoration effort. Maryland, EPA and other states in the Chesapeake Bay watershed have adopted an aggressive new permitting strategy for wastewater treatment plants that requires specific nutrient loading limits in all new or renewed permits issued for Maryland’s 66 major wastewater treatment plants in the Bay watershed.
“The proposed nutrient loading limits are among the most stringent in the nation,” said Governor Ehrlich. “Maryland’s new state-of-the-art Enhanced Nutrient Removal (ENR) based loading limits are consistent with the requirements of the Clean Water Act and will ensure that Maryland can achieve and maintain its nutrient reduction goals for Chesapeake Bay and its tributaries.”
Upon EPA approval of Maryland’s Chesapeake Bay water quality standards that will be re-published in the Maryland Register on June 24, specific nitrogen and phosphorus loading limits will be included in the discharge permits for the State’s 66 major wastewater treatment plants as they are renewed.
“I commend Maryland on its leadership in moving forward with revised water quality standards for the protection of the Chesapeake Bay,” said EPA Mid-Atlantic Regional Administrator Welsh. “Maryland’s standards provide the foundation for a seven-state strategy to control nutrients in wastewater treatment plant discharge permits and represents the largest such interstate project in the nation.”
Maryland’s proposed nutrient loading limits are based on achieving state-of-the-art ENR levels of less than 4 milligrams per liter nitrogen and 0.3 milligrams per liter phosphorus at all major wastewater treatment plants. Major treatment plants are those that discharge more than 500,000 gallons per day of treated wastewater. Together, these plants account for approximately 95 percent of the treated wastewater discharged by all of the state’s sewage treatment plants.
Unless more stringent limits are needed to meet water quality standards in the immediate vicinity of a discharge, the 66 major wastewater treatment plants currently being upgraded using the Bay Restoration Fund will be required to meet permit limits consistent with the loading goals established in the State’s Enhanced Nutrient Removal Strategy, which is a major component of Maryland’s Chesapeake Bay Tributary Strategies. Minor wastewater treatment plants (those that discharge less than 500,000 gallons per day), will be addressed in the latter stages of the Bay Restoration Fund implementation and will continue to have nutrient loading goals rather than limits in their permits.
The purpose of the Bay Restoration Fund-supported upgrades of the state’s major wastewater treatment plants and the new permitting strategy is to restore the Bay by achieving water quality standards that define the basic water quality conditions necessary to protect the health of aquatic life, ensure that fish and shellfish are safe to eat and provide safe recreational opportunities. Using the best available scientific information, Maryland’s new water quality standards have been developed in cooperation with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the other states that make up the Chesapeake Bay watershed (New York, Pennsylvania, Delaware, West Virginia, Virginia and the District of Columbia).
“Maryland’s water quality standards are vital in our effort to preserve and restore the Chesapeake Bay and its irreplaceable cultural, economic and recreational resources,” said MDE Secretary Kendl P. Philbrick. “They are the basis of our water pollution control efforts and improve our ability to effectively regulate water quality in a scientifically sound manner.”
To meet the new water quality standards, the states and EPA have determined based on water quality monitoring and advanced computer modeling that nutrient and sediment pollution entering the Bay and its tributaries will have to be reduced significantly from all industrial, urban, suburban and agricultural sources in the watershed.
“EPA has worked closely with Maryland on these water quality standards which are designed to be fully protective of the Bay’s living resources. We look forward to receiving the state’s proposal later this month.” said EPA Mid-Atlantic Regional Administrator Welsh.
MDE re-proposed the state’s water quality standards after modifying an earlier proposal in response to EPA and other comments. The re-proposed standards will be published in the Maryland Register on June 24 for a 30-day public comment period. State water quality standards are reviewed every three years per the federal Clean Water Act and updated as necessary to recognize the latest research science and technological advancements.
All of the states in the Bay watershed and the federal government have been working aggressively to reduce all sources of nutrient and sediment loading to the Bay and its tributaries. Maryland has taken a huge step toward meeting this goal with the creation of Governor Ehrlich’s historic Bay Restoration Fund, which is providing the financial support necessary to upgrade all of Maryland’s major sewage treatment plants to achieve state-of-the-art nutrient removal. In addition, the Bay Restoration Fund will be providing grants for upgrading onsite sewage disposal systems in the Critical Area surrounding Chesapeake Bay and its tributaries starting next year. A portion of that fund will also be used for planting winter cover crops on agricultural cropland to further reduce nutrient pollution to the Bay.
To read more about the regional permitting strategy, visit: www.epa.gov/reg3wapd/npdes/pdf/ches_bay_nutrients.pdf.