Thursday 22 February 2018

Press Statements (61)

Baltimore City hearing is second of three challenges to Maryland’s Department of the Environment permitting of stormwater runoff -- the primary source of contaminants polluting Baltimore waterways   BALTIMORE, MD  –  This morning, a coalition of environmental and local watershed advocates legally challenged the Maryland Department of the Environment (MDE) to improve the permits that govern urban storm sewer systems. Today’s Baltimore City Circuit Court hearing is the second of three separate challenges to MDE’s permitting program for stormwater runoff.  In the DC and Baltimore regions, urban stormwater runoff is documented as the number one source of contaminants polluting rivers, creeks and streams, many of which ultimately flow into the Chesapeake Bay. MDE is the department authorized to oversee Maryland’s program to reduce pollution from this runoff. The coalition asserts that MDE is issuing permits that are unenforceable and ineffective. Their challenge rests on four main arguments:  MDE’s refusal to impose enforceable limits in the permits, Lack of public participation process in setting deadlines and limits, Inadequate monitoring and absence of compliance timetables; and Inadequate requirements for the elimination of non-stormwater pollution discharges  General statement from the coalition:  “MDE continues to waste millions of Maryland taxpayer dollars on ineffective and unenforceable permitting programs that fail to protect our beloved waterways and the nationally treasured Chesapeake Bay. These challenges simply seek to increase accountability and the public participation process so desperately needed to protect the waters in which we swim, fish, boat and enjoy.” Statement from Betsy Nicholas, Executive Director of…
No more delay: Protect our communities from manure pollution The Maryland Department of Agriculture and Governor O'Malley’s administration bowed to pressure from the agriculture lobby and chose delay over protecting our families and communities from the harmful pollution that is choking our waterways. On Friday, November 15, the administration withdrew its proposed regulations to implement the new Maryland Phosphorus Management Tool, designed to reduce phosphorus pollution caused by excessive application of manure. This marks the third delay in the implementation of these critical regulations, while the problems from phosphorus pollution in our waterways continue to grow. Phosphorus pollution causes algae blooms that kill underwater grasses, threaten human health, harm aquatic life like blue crabs, oysters and fish, and create an enormous “dead zone” in the Bay. Runoff from manure may also include harmful bacteria and dangerous pharmaceuticals. The agriculture industry keeps pushing for further delays, which will ultimately make meeting their state and federal requirements to reduce pollution more difficult and more expensive. Many Maryland farm fields with a history of manure (and biosludge) application have phosphorus levels that far exceed what is needed for successful crop growth. Fields with high phosphorus levels can pollute nearby waterways and the Chesapeake Bay. Delaying implementation of this tool will result in excessive levels of phosphorus continuing to be applied to the fields and continuing to pollute nearby streams and waterways. The longer we wait to implement the tool – the more polluted the fields and streams will be. Marylanders depend on clean…
Waterkeepers Chesapeake, a coalition of 19 independent local organizations, expressed serious concerns today that the new Chesapeake Bay Watershed Agreement fails to put enough specific measures in place to assure meaningful improvement to the Bay and our rivers. Representatives from Maryland, Virginia, Pennsylvania, New York, Delaware, West Virginia and Washington, D.C. will sign the new agreement today. The first Chesapeake Bay Agreement established the numeric goals to reduce nitrogen and phosphorus pollution in the Bay ecosystem and was signed in 1987 by the governors of Virginia, Maryland and Pennsylvania and the mayor of Washington, D.C. Several updated agreements have been adopted since then. According to the Chesapeake Bay Program, today’s new Agreement establishes “a set of goals and outcomes for the restoration of the Bay, its tributaries and the lands that surround them.” In response to the draft Agreement, Waterkeepers Chesapeake says the Agreement now includes some laudable new goals, such as reducing toxic contaminants, and addressing environmental justice and climate change. However, the Agreement allows the jurisdictions to opt out of these goals, and, in fact, allows them to opt out of any of the goals.  The Agreement also provides no accountability for jurisdictions that fail to meet the goals they do choose to adopt. Since the draft Agreement was introduced, citizens submitted thousands of public comments, many specifically asking for the jurisdictions to be held accountable for implementing these goals.  “Each and every jurisdiction in the Bay has to do their share,” said Betsy Nicholas, executive director of…