Tuesday 16 January 2018

The two-hour meeting in a school lunchroom was tense at times, its 250 attendees divided over whether the county could protect its poultry-based economy as well as the rebounding aquaculture, tourism and wildlife of the Chesapeake Bay.

In the end, the county passed the new setbacks -- but didn't seem prepared to do much else. That was frustrating for Accomack native Jay Ford of the nonprofit Virginia Eastern Shorekeeper. But he recognizes it's not all the county's fault.

"It's not a problem that the localities can, or should be expected to tackle," he says. "It's unfair that the state is leaving rural localities that are understaffed for such a technical problem to try and tackle it with the limited tools they have because of right-to-farm laws."

He thinks the EPA is dragging its feet on evaluating the health and environmental impacts of big poultry operations. Without region-wide data, Ford says, there can't be much coordination.

READ MORE: Delmarva Public Media, March 4, 2016

Waterkeepers Chesapeake and seven Riverkeeper organizations in Maryland, Washington, D.C. and Virginia, have filed suit in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia against the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and EPA Administrator Regina McCarthy in a legal matter involving the delisting of 53 river segments in 17 Maryland counties and Baltimore City.

At issue is whether the Environmental Protection Agency, under provisions of the Clean Water Act, must assess water quality upriver in the 53 delisted river segments. 2012IRMap

“Pollution doesn’t just originate in the middle of the Chesapeake Bay,” said Elizabeth Nicholas, executive director of Waterkeepers Chesapeake. “We have to look at all of the smaller creeks and streams that are suffering impaired water quality throughout the watershed.”

According to the suit, the delisted river segments suffer degraded conditions not limited to: algae blooms, sediment plumes, excess nutrients, low oxygen and fish die-offs.

"This case is not just about the EPA trying to shortcut what is required by the Clean Water Act,” said David Flores, Baltimore Harbor Waterkeeper. “It is also about the agency subverting the public's right to participate in the cleanup of our neighborhood streams and rivers."

This lawsuit challenges a regulatory action by the Maryland Department of the Environment (MDE) and EPA that followed the approval of the Bay TMDL (Total Maximum Daily Load, a regulatory term under the Clean Water Act). The legal action does not seek to overturn or undermine the Bay TMDL, recently upheld by the Supreme Court.

"Our rivers are more polluted than the main stem of the Bay. As a result, we need a stricter pollution diet,” said Jeff Horstman, Midshore Riverkeeper. “We have very concentrated areas of agricultural pollution requiring specific clean up actions. By circumventing their duty and simply applying the Bay TMDL to our rivers, the EPA and MDE hamper our ability to clean our rivers."

Earthjustice is filing the lawsuit on behalf of Waterkeepers Chesapeake and member organizations, which include Blue Water Baltimore (Baltimore Harbor Waterkeeper), Chester River Association (Chester Riverkeeper), Gunpowder Riverkeeper, Midshore Riverkeeper Conservancy (Midshore Riverkeeper, Choptank Riverkeeper), and Potomac Riverkeeper Network (Upper Potomac Riverkeeper, Potomac Riverkeeper).

For a list of de-listed waters, go to page 13 of this document and search for water segments that have the note “The Chesapeake Bay TMDL, addressing this impairment, was finalized on 12/29/2010.”



DOWNLOAD Maryland Integrated Report 2012

MAP of De-Listed Segments



Today, on behalf of Potomac Riverkeeper Network, the Southern Environmental Law Center filed an appeal of the permit issued by Virginia Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) to Dominion that would allow the company to pollute Quantico Creek and the Potomac River with more than 150 million gallons of coal ash wastewater contaminated with high levels of toxic metals from the Possum Point Power Station.

The conservation groups are challenging the failure of the permit to require Dominion to abide by the Clean Water Act and to use readily available water treatment technologies that remove most of the toxic metals from the wastewater before it is released into a waterway used by many for fishing, boating, and birdwatching. 

“DEQ Director David Paylor has refused to answer why he misled the public by saying no water was pumped into state waters only to find out months later over 25 million gallons of untreated coal ash water was pumped into the Potomac River. Both Dominion and DEQ first deny, then revise what happened at Possum Point just like with Dominion's oil spill. There is absolutely no accountability or oversight. We are demanding an EPA investigation and we want Dominion's coal ash permit revoked,” said Potomac Riverkeeper Dean Naujoks. “We want a full investigation. EPA must investigate this matter.” 

READ MORE: SELC & PRKN Press Statement, February 26, 2016