Survey: some farmers in midstate are making effort to reduce pollution

Written by Ben Allen, General Assignment Reporter | Dec 16, 2016 2:02 PM

(Harrisburg) -- Pennsylvania has fallen behind other states when it comes to cleaning up the Chesapeake Bay watershed.

But a new survey attempts to show that some farmers are making an effort.

The Penn State Survey Research Center asked about 20,000 Pennsylvania farmers how they were trying to reduce pollution.

About 6,700 responded, pointing to fencing around stream banks, adding manure storages, and better conservation practices.

Among some of the concrete examples from the survey: farmers in the watershed have added more than 253 miles of fencing around stream banks, thousands of acres of buffer land, and more than 2,000 runoff control systems.

The state says it didn't have a list of the projects before because it says individual farmers have paid for them, not the government.

But it may not change Pennsylvania's standing in the eyes of the Environmental Protection Agency.

Still, Department of Environmental Protection Acting Secretary Patrick McDonnell says it's a positive step.

"The better data we have, better understand of what we have going out on the ground, that's important. Just as important is this survey tool gives us a means by which in a cost-effective way, we can get that data," says McDonnell.

McDonnell says Pennsylvania has a hill to climb to get on track with the Chesapeake Bay watershed goals.

Rich Batiuk with the Environmental Protection Agency says the data will help Pennsylvania get a sense of what's working and what isn't.

"How much is due to wastewater treatment plant upgrades? What can we recognize that the farmers, putting on the ground out there, here's their part of that piece? And what has happened because of good Clean Air Act out there, or as well as Pennsylvania continues its work on stormwater?" he adds.

Earlier this year, the EPA said it expects Pennsylvania and other states in the watershed will miss a midpoint pollution reduction goal at the end of next year.

It isn't clear whether the survey results will actually improve the EPA views of Pennsylvania's efforts to reduce pollution.

Inspectors randomly visited 10 percent of the farmers who responded to the survey to make sure they answered it truthfully.

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