Friday, July 6, 2012

VA is the "Biggest Loser"... and that's a good thing!

Chesapeake Bay Watershed
Map Source
The Environmental Protection Agency's Region 3 has named Virginia the "Biggest Loser" for coming in first in the midAtlantic and second in the nation for reducing nitrogen pollution. In 2011 the Commonwealth's programs kept 2.5 million pounds of nitrogen out of our streams, rivers, and the Chesapeake Bay.

Although there is more than a wee bit irony of a Republican governor touting an award from the EPA, that was just part of an announcement from Governor Bob McDonnell highlighting progress in cleanup of the Chesapeake Bay. Other key advances on restoring our water resources include included in the governor's press release include:
  • In 2011 major wastewater plants exceeded pollution reduction goals by more than 2,000% for nitrogen and more than 450% for phosphorus,
  • Virginia has allocated $92 million toward point and nonpoint water quality programs,
  • Virginia reported more phosphorus and bacteria load reductions (216,000 pounds) than any other state in EPA’s Region 3 (Pennsylvania, Maryland, Delaware, West Virginia, and the District of Columbia).
While much remains to be done to fully restore the Chesapeake Bay and all our precious state waters, this is especially good news for oysters and osprey, for striped bass and blue crabs, and for eagles and everyone who understands the economic and environmental benefits of clean water.

Many of the reductions were achieved by implementing 400 best management practices on over 340,000 acres of farmland. The Department of Conservation and Recreation gets about $3.5 million per year in Clean Water Act grants to reduce nonpoint pollution. The DCR works through the Soil and Water Conservation Districts and with responsible farmers to fence cows and other livestock out of streams, to reduce erosion and nutrients by planting vegetation along streams, and to upgrade out-of-date septic systems.

Plenty of kudos to the governor, the DCR the farmers, and everyone involved... it is great to be the "Biggest Loser." However, much remains to be done to assure clean water for future generations. There are probably tens of thousands of defective septic systems across the state. The Commonwealth has over 47,000 farms covering 8,100,000 acres (about a third of the Commonwealth's land area)... that's a lot of streams and creeks to fence and restore. Today is a good time for all Virginians to crow about these successes. Tomorrow is prime time to set new goals and and to start working on the other 7,776,000 acres and all those septic tanks.

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