Pennsylvania lags far behind other states in reducing water pollution

Written by Ben Allen, General Assignment Reporter | Jun 22, 2015 3:09 AM


(Harrisburg) -- A status report on the Chesapeake Bay finds Pennsylvania has a lot of work to do if it's going to meet pollution reduction goals and avoid sanctions from the federal government. Of the 6 states plus Washington, DC in the Bay's watershed, Pennsylvania is the only lagging so far behind.

The federal Environmental Protection Agency is flagging Pennsylvania for failing to hit goals in the agriculture and stormwater areas, on the way to deadlines in 20-17 and 20-25.

To stay on track, farms would have to greatly reduce nitrogen pollution this year.

Harry Campbell, Pennsylvania executive director for the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, says planting tree buffers or making barnyard improvements aren't that expensive, and will make a big difference..

"They involve just putting a fence alongside the stream, alternative water resources things that are little less intensive than digging up the street or putting in a greenroof, which is oftentimes highly engineered," he says.

Campbell says state lawmakers need to start thinking about how to meet the goals.

"It is there and it's growing there, and if it's not there, there are consequences for that. The federal government has established a list of backstops or consequences for not actually implementing this plan, and we want to avoid those at all costs," he adds.

However, the Pennsylvania Farm Bureau, which is suing the EPA over pollution limits, says farmers are being asked to do too much, too quickly.

Environmental officials also say stormwater is showing too much sediment, nitrogen and phosphorous.

The EPA could take certain polluters or the state to court to require improvements if future goals aren't met.

In a statement to WITF, state Department of Environmental Protection Secretary John Quigley says there is a "urgent need" for focus on the Chesapeake Bay. Quigley says farmers need to do the right thing for the Bay's health, and pledges enforcement actions when needed. He says Pennsylvania has made progress going back to 1985, but "clearly it is not enough".

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