Maryland, Virginia on track with Chesapeake cleanup goals; Pennsylvania lags

Maryland and Virginia are ahead of Pennsylvania in work to reduce Chesapeake Bay pollution, but runoff from farms and urban areas continues to plague the estuary, according to a new report from environmentalists.

A Chesapeake Bay Foundation assessment found that the two states that surround the bay have made necessary progress reducing pollution from sewage treatment plants and, to a lesser degree, from farms. But they are farther off track in tackling pollution that rain washes into the bay from urban and suburban pavement.

Farther up the bay watershed, Pennsylvania is falling significantly short of goals to reduce pollution from farms and urban runoff, the report found.

“The success all three states have had in reducing pollution from sewage treatment plants is important, but it also masks shortfalls in each of the states’ efforts to reduce pollution from agriculture and urban/suburban runoff,” foundation President William C. Baker said in a statement. “Continued federal and state investments will be key to success on the state level, and we know the payoff will be significant.”

The report comes as the Chesapeake approaches the midpoint of a cleanup plan launched by the states and the federal Environmental Protection Agency in 2010. The plan set goals to significantly reduce pollutants that wash into the bay by 2025, and the states are expected to get 60 percent of the way to those targets by the end of this year.

The bay foundation credited Maryland for ongoing work to upgrade sewage treatment infrastructure and reduce phosphorus concentrations in farm soil. But it said state regulators aren’t enforcing requirements that counties and municipalities reduce the amount of paved surfaces within their jurisdictions or find other ways to reduce runoff pollution.

It found that Virginia has made progress reducing agricultural pollution, including through a popular state program that fences cattle off from streams. The state’s work to improve sewage treatment helped offset lagging progress in other areas.

Pennsylvania and, to a lesser extent, New York are behind in their efforts, the report said. Pennsylvania is “significantly off track in reducing pollution from nitrogen, phosphorus, and sediment,” according to the foundation.

Read the full report here.

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