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Cleaning up the Bay

I was pleased to read that the EPA finds Maryland is making progress toward our clean water goals for the Chesapeake Bay and that we're on course to reduce phosphorus pollution ("EPA finds Maryland mostly on track in Bay cleanup, but Pennsylvania lagging badly," June 12).

But this news shouldn't be interpreted as an opportunity to slow our pace. In the next few years, our pollution limits will become more stringent, and there are key programs we need to implement if we want to stay on track.

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Maryland residents and our elected officials should play close attention to EPA's warnings that, based on U.S. Geological Survey water samples, "excess manure and fertilizer are causing worsening trends on the Eastern Shore" and that our state should consider "additional actions" to reduce agricultural pollution in the years ahead.

This underscores how critical it is to stop excess manure from saturating farm fields and contaminating nearby streams and rivers.

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The state's newly implemented Phosphorus Management Tool will play a crucial role in mitigating pollution from the 200,000 tons of excess manure generated by the chickens owned by the four major poultry companies on Delmarva.

Unfortunately, industrial scale poultry production is expanding on the Lower Eastern Shore. There are pending permit applications for CAFOs (Confined Animal Feeding Operations) that could add another 17 million chickens and the huge burden of additional manure pollution that taxpayers and farmers will have to clean up.

We have a long way to go to truly restore the Chesapeake Bay and the nearly 60 percent of Maryland waterways that are classified as "polluted" before the job is done. We cannot slow or even simply maintain our level of effort to date.

It's good to know that actions we've been taking to clean up our waterways are yielding promising results, but we must aggressively work to meet our pollution reduction goals using the best science possible, which includes heeding what on-the-ground water monitoring is telling us.

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We also must continue to demand basic accountability and transparency for how our tax dollars are being spent on pollution control by the Maryland Department of Agriculture and government-subsidized agricultural operations if our region's waters are ever to be swimmable and fishable again.

Dan Furmansky, Silver Spring

The writer is co-chair of Sierra Club Maryland's Clean Agriculture Coalition.

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