BALTIMORE, MD (September 1, 2005) -- The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has approved Maryland’s new water quality standards, Maryland Department of the Environment (MDE) Secretary Kendl P. Philbrick announced today. The new standards, which underwent public review earlier this year, require specific nutrient loading limits in all new or renewed permits issued for Maryland’s 66 major wastewater treatment plants in the Chesapeake Bay watershed.
“Water quality is a major priority for this Administration,” said Governor Ehrlich. “The EPA’s approval of these standards demonstrates our commitment to improving water quality in the Chesapeake Bay and its tributaries in Maryland. This is one part of our comprehensive effort to the restore and revitalize the Bay.”
“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 the Chesapeake Bay and its tributaries,” Secretary Philbrick said. “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. They are the basis of our water pollution control efforts and improve our ability to effectively regulate water quality in a scientifically sound manner.”
The discharge of nutrients (nitrogen and phosphorous) from wastewater treatment is one of the most serious problems affecting the Chesapeake Bay. Excessive nutrients in the Bay cause algae blooms in the water, which leads to oxygen depletion and other adverse impacts on water quality. Excessive algae growth can also block sunlight that is critical to support plant and aquatic life.
“Maryland's new water quality standards are a pivotal piece in our multi-state effort to increase nutrient controls across the Chesapeake Bay watershed,” said Benjamin H. Grumbles, EPA’s Assistant Administrator for Water. “Taking actions like these in collaboration with our Bay partners, will help to provide the highest levels of protection and restoration for the nation's largest and most biologically diverse estuary.”
EPA has been working with states for several years to develop a basin-wide strategy for these nutrient permit limits. This new strategy covers the entire watershed, and describes how states and EPA plan to develop permit limits based on the living resource needs of the Bay. States participating in the strategy include Maryland, Virginia, Delaware, Pennsylvania, New York and West Virginia and the District of Columbia.
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.
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 Chesapeake 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.
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 were 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.
More information on Maryland’s water quality standards (including Frequently Asked Questions) can be viewed online at: mde.maryland.gov/programs/water/TMDL/WaterQualityStandards/Pages/index.aspx. A copy of a document that outlines the permitting approach can be found on EPA’s website at: www.epa.gov/reg3wapd/npdes/index.htm.