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December 30, 2010 Published in EcoNews, From Richmond

EPA Accepts Virginia’s Chesapeake Bay Cleanup Plan

Today, Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell received word that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has approved Virginia’s Chesapeake Bay Watershed Implementation Plan submitted by the Administration in November. The plan was developed as part of EPA’s establishment of a total maximum daily load or “pollution diet” for the Chesapeake Bay. Virginia is one of seven Bay jurisdictions which develop such plans. The TMDL sets goals for all the Bay states and the District of Columbia to reduce the levels of nitrogen, phosphorus and sediment entering the Chesapeake Bay from its rivers and streams.

“We are pleased that EPA has accepted the Virginia Watershed Implementation Plan as a part of their Chesapeake Bay TMDL,” said McDonnell. “Our plan reflects recommendations made by the public and Virginia stakeholder groups and proposes specific actions in appropriate timeframes to achieve significant cost effective reductions in pollution to the Bay. We feel it is a stringent but workable plan that demonstrates Virginia’s commitment to cleaning up the Chesapeake Bay while providing for continued economic growth in the Commonwealth.  After much discussion with the EPA, the approved plan balances the important environmental protection concerns with the need to protect jobs in agriculture and farming.  While we maintain our concern about aspects of the EPA watershed model and enforcement authority, as well as the significant additional public and private sector costs associated with plan implementation, we believe Virginia’s plan will make a significant contribution to improving water quality in the Bay.”

The plan identifies actions to reduce the amount of nitrogen, phosphorus and sediment entering the Bay from all major sources, including sewage treatment plants, industrial facilities, urban areas, agriculture, forestry and septic systems. It also establishes a special process for evaluating the James River based on its unique characteristics and on water quality standards that apply only to that river.

The plan approved today by EPA includes revisions made to an earlier draft submitted in September based on discussions with the federal environmental agency and stakeholders. These stakeholders included representatives from local governments, the agricultural and development communities and sewage treatment plant operators. Key provisions of the plan include:

  • An additional 2.6 million pounds reduction of nitrogen in the James River basin from wastewater treatment plants.
  • High expectations for the adoption of resource management plans on agricultural operations that will feature water quality best management practices, with consequences if goals are not achieved.
  • Actions that will lead to nitrogen-reducing septic systems.
  • High standards for limiting runoff from new development and for the control of storm water in existing storm drainage systems.
  • Use of new and emerging technology to achieve nutrient and sediment reductions.
  • The expansion of the existing nutrient credit exchange program, which will be a tool for greater flexibility and cost effectiveness in pollution reduction actions.
  • The plan also includes specificity regarding the timing, oversight and enforcement of pollution reduction actions.

“As we stated when we submitted this plan, we continue to believe this is the most far-reaching and ambitious plan ever devised to clean up Virginia’s rivers and the Chesapeake Bay,” said Virginia Secretary of Natural Resources Doug Domenech. “And we have devised a plan that while ambitious is also realistic, balanced and cost effective. It is significant that EPA accepted Virginia’s plan without imposing any Clean Water Act backstops or consequences. A lot of the credit goes to the leaders and professionals at the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality and Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation working under the Governor’s direction to get this plan done right.”

Todd P. Haymore is the Secretary of Agriculture and Forestry.“I appreciate both Governor McDonnell’s leadership during the development of the Watershed Improvement Plan and the EPA’s acceptance of it,” he said. “I am also grateful for the assistance that the administration received from our key agricultural stakeholders. Although farmers are the country’s original environmentalists and chief stewards of our precious natural resources, Virginia’s agricultural community expressed to Governor McDonnell, Secretary Domenech, and this secretariat its continued willingness to enhance Chesapeake Bay water quality now and in the future. We worked with them to develop a plan that is reasonable and equitable.”