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Smart Talk is a daily, live, interactive program featuring conversations with newsmakers and experts in a variety of fields and exploring a wide range of issues and ideas, including the economy, politics, health care, education, culture, and the environment.  Smart Talk airs live every week day at 9 a.m. on WITF’s 89.5 and 93.3.

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Host: Scott LaMar

PA cabinet secretaries on Chesapeake cleanup/Education podcast

Written by Scott LaMar, Smart Talk Host/Executive Producer | Jul 20, 2017 4:48 AM
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What to look for on Smart Talk Thursday, July 20, 2017:

Three state cabinet secretaries appear on Thursday's Smart Talk to discuss Pennsylvania's renewed efforts to do its part in the Chesapeake Bay clean-up.  Appearing on the program are Secretary of the Department of Environmental Protection Patrick McDonnell, Cindy Dunn, Secretary of the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources and Department of Agriculture Secretary Russell Redding.

The Chesapeake Bay is known for a lot of things. Along with its Blue Crabs, oysters and status as the largest estuary in the United States--it is also notoriously dirty. Clean water standards have been historically disagreed upon, but for the first time in decades, things might be looking up for the Blue crabs and watershed residents.

What exactly makes the Bay so dirty? Algae blooms mostly, that grow from an excess of nutrients such as phosphorus and nitrogen. The nutrients create a toxic environment and decrease oxygen levels in the water leading to "dead zones." While algae are a normal, healthy part of any ecosystem, the Bay's surplus of these toxic blooms endangers the health of its marine animal and plant life and thus, human beings. Many residents of the Bay's watershed can't drink their own well water due to the high levels of nitrates, and swimming in the Bay is considered ill-advised.

The Bay's dirty water problem is multi-faceted. The main source of the pollution is not due to major contaminators such as sewage plants and factories, as these are controlled dumpers. Instead, the pollution is due to urban and industrial run-off from septic tanks, lawns, parking lots, and most significantly, farming. There is a longstanding battle between Attorney Generals and the Environmental Protection Agency as agricultural agencies pushback against the EPA's blueprints for cleaner farming. However, headway has been made according to recent reports by The Chesapeake Bay Program, though there is still much work to be done. Restoring the Bay to health is essentially a team effort.

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Secretary Russell Redding - Department of Agriculture / Secretary Cindy Dunn - Department of Conservation and Natural Resources / Secretary Patrick McDonnell - Department of Environmental Protection

Also joining us on Smart Talk is WHYY Philadelphia's Kevin McCorry, to discuss his new podcast "Schooled." The podcast takes a close, personal look at the nation's public schools, and the state of public education. Kevin is part of the Keystone Crossroads team, a public media partnership which examines the pressing problems and possible solutions of Pennsylvania's cities.

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WHYY Philadelphia's Kevin McCorry


- I am a Penn State Master Watershed Steward in York County. 

Programs like this one today are critical in the effort to improve the bay.

We do many community outreach programs and I cannot stress enough that we need to "Educate! Educate! Educate!". The public is willing to do what is right when they know what is right.  

And, it is important to understand that no one can do everything, but everyone can do something.                                                                                                                                                                                Remember, we all live downstream.    - Wendy, ><{{{}}}°>

- I am a small farmer who recently moved from frederick Maryland to Littlestown Pa.  In order to protect the bay, Maryland over burden the farmer with paperwork (yearly nutrient management plans,  crop cover plans etc) it was crazy. 

Small farms had to do as much paper work as larger farms did.  It became a burden.  This is any farm that had livestock over 5 animals or made over $2500 a year from thru ag.   (That is not much)

Is that my future here in PA?     - Christine

- I am so tired of hearing people saying something will cost too much. I DO NOT want to go back to the days of my childhood - rivers catching fire, love canal.  We claim to be a Christian nation, let's be true trustees of the planet and treat it and other people like we love it.                                  - Blaine, Delta

- To help keep the farm ingredients "on" the farm is it possible to wall in the fields. Maybe not with a physical wall but like a dirt mound, line of trees etc.            - Paul

- The C-bay cleanup effort when started in 1983 was a voluntary effort for the states involved . There were concerns at that time that voluntary efforts would someday be converted into mandatory goals. This transition occurred in 2010 when the EPA issued the Total Maximum Daily Load requirement for the C-Bay.

Unfortunately as feared, the mandatory requirement from the EPA came without the significant dollars to assist the states. In addition, when EPA offered or actually provided contractor assistance to the states they often attempted to use the existing dollars dedicated to the states for their efforts rather than using new dollars.  EPA operates on an 4 year administration timeline trying to force results (through the use of models, sanctions, etc.) that can be touted to the public for public relations. Anyone in the pollution control and environmental cleanup business knows that it isn't accomplished in 4 year, 8 year, etc. political timeframes.  

PA has had a significant storm water program in existence since 1978 with the passage of Act 167. Almost 40 years later the Commonwealth agencies have not brought all counties or municipalities into compliance, mostly because of the costs to local governments who either do not have a taxable or fee base to pay for the needed modifications  and refuse to join other neighboring municipalities to increase that fee base or local or state government officials who do not have the political willpower to make the corrections.  - Ronald

- Regulations are of no value without adequate enforcement from DEP.  The conservation districts can not even keep up with erosion enforcement.  Also we must restore and protect wetlands.                                   -Scouterlake

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