BALTIMORE, MD (February 3, 2006) – Maryland’s Chesapeake Bay Restoration Fund (BRF) is on track and has made significant strides in its first year, according to a report from the advisory group charged with guiding the implementation of the landmark initiative.
“The implementation of the program has been initiated successfully and is proceeding in the right direction at a good pace,” said Bay Restoration Advisory Fund Committee Chairman Robert Warfield. “The committee believes it is too early to determine if any modifications should be made at this point.”
The fund, enacted in 2004, is the most innovative environmental legislation in the past two decades and aims to remove nitrogen and phosphorus from wastewater treatment plant effluent to state-of-the-art levels. Under the BRF, all public sewer service customers pay a fee of $2.50 per month while On-Site Disposal System (OSDS) or septic users pay $30 annually. The fee paid by OSDS users funds OSDS upgrades and implementation of cover crop plantings to reduce nitrogen loading to the Bay. When all 66 major plants are upgraded with use of fund monies, the impact will be a 7.5 million pound annual reduction in nitrogen and a 260,000-pound annual reduction in phosphorus. Excess nutrients, like nitrogen and phosphorus, lead to degraded water quality, which negatively impacts the ecology of the Bay and its tributaries.
Among the fund’s list of accomplishments noted by the committee are:
Fund collections beginning January 1, 2005 of more than $40.2 million by the Comptroller’s Office by year’s end.
Construction of enhanced nutrient removal (ENR) at seven wastewater treatment plants, design at 12 others and planning for 29 more.
Creation of a database and billing system for the approximately 420,000 On-Site Disposal System (OSDS)/septic users.
Enrollment of 200,000 acres of cover crops following a commitment from the Governor to provide supplemental funds to address financial needs unmet by BRF.
“The Bay Restoration Fund is generating significant interest around the country,” said Maryland Department of Environment Secretary Kendl P. Philbrick. “Once again Maryland sets the trend in environmental policy. Though individuals can quibble about dollars and cents, no one can doubt the invaluable role the Bay plays in this state. Every Marylander has a vital interest in this irreplaceable waterway, which is a multi-billion dollar cultural, recreational and economic engine. Preserving and restoring the Chesapeake is a mission possible that we must never overlook. As the Bay goes, so goes Maryland.”
Despite the success, challenges remain. The committee reports that:
Construction bids on wastewater treatment projects are coming in 20 to 30 percent higher than anticipated due to increasing costs in energy, labor, steel and concrete.
Upgrading plants to ENR requires that they already have biological nutrient (BNR) removal, but the General Assembly cut local grants in that program by $3 million last year.
Education and outreach must be strengthened, particularly for OSDS users.
A full-scale grants, engineering, operation and maintenance program must be developed and implemented so that nitrogen reductions from OSDS upgrades are experienced.
In coming months the committee will focus on these challenges and others that may surface. The committee will continue to advise MDE and other involved state agencies to ensure that successful implementation of this important program continues to move forward.
“Allegany County is very pleased with the results of the BNR/ENR upgrade of our Celanese Wastewater Treatment Plant,” said W. Stephen Young, director of Public Works in Allegany County. “As an upstream contributor to the Chesapeake Bay, we recognize our obligation to discharge as nutrient-free an effluent as possible. The Bay Restoration Fund has made that goal a reality.”
The complete report can be found on MDE’s website at:mde.maryland.gov/assets/document/BRF_Annual_Report_2006.pdf. For more information about MDE’s efforts to restore the Bay, visit mde.maryland.gov/programs/water/Pages/bayrestoration.aspx