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Pennsylvania needs to clean up its Chesapeake Bay-polluting act

This image, captured by satellite, shows the Chesapeake Bay.
This image, captured by satellite, shows the Chesapeake Bay. (Satellite view courtesy NASA Langley Research Center)

Jackie Filson of Foot & Water Watch fixates on the 2% of Americans today who work the land as farmers, including chicken growers (“Maryland should address its own pollution before suing Pennsylvania,” Sept. 3). But in resisting holding Pennsylvania accountable for falling behind Maryland in investing in a cleaner Chesapeake Bay, she ignores significant progress already made in Maryland.

Maryland must “reduce pollution,” Ms. Filson declares. Well, since 1985, Maryland has reduced the nitrogen it sends to the Chesapeake Bay by 39%, during which time Pennsylvania only accomplished an 11% reduction, according to the Chesapeake Bay Program’s watershed model. In 2017, Pennsylvania sent more nitrogen flowing into the bay (111 million pounds) than Maryland and Virginia combined (103 million pounds), according to Chesapeake Bay researchers. In that context, an “ignore Pennsylvania” strategy is short-sighted.

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Maryland must “end factory farming,” she insists. Let’s review the record. In the past 30 years, farmers in the entire Chesapeake Bay watershed have cut their collective nitrogen pollution by 25%. But in the same time period, nitrogen runoff from stormwater in urban areas increased — yes, increased — by 21%, going from 34 million pounds a year in the 1980s to 41 million pounds in 2017.

Farmers have risen to the challenge put before them, managing to feed more people while polluting less. Farmers willing to embrace efficiency and economies of scale have helped make it possible. But as farmers toiled to make that progress, swelling nutrient loads from developed lands have made achieving our overall water quality goals harder.

Will farmers do more to reduce nutrient and sediment runoff? Absolutely, for the sake of generations to come. But we need a committed partner in Pennsylvania to achieve real, lasting success.

Holly Porter, Denton

The writer is executive director of Delmarva Poultry Industry, Inc.

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