DOING A FEW THINGS WELL

WAY is a coalition of stakeholders being innovative leaders encouraging watershed-based planning, restoration and protection in York County, Pennsylvania, and beyond.

Monday, June 12, 2017

CLEAN WATER - Good to the last drop!

There have been numerous writings in the news media the past several weeks expressing concern to outrage at proposed "clean water" cuts to state and federal budgets.
Clean water is life! It is essential for healthy communities, vibrant economies, environmental quality, and the quality of life we enjoy here in Pennsylvania, everyday. Plato summed it up best - “Only what is rare is valuable, and water, which is the best of all things…is also the cheapest.”
A study published in Forbes magazine (Nov. 29, 2012) finds Americans willing to pay more for water according to the Value of Water report, released by global water technology and equipment provider Xylem. The report found that 75 percent of Americans were willing to pay more for water infrastructure that conserves energy and 70 percent were willing to pay more for water to ensure that all Americans have access to clean water.
Last Tuesday, June 6th, Pennsylvania's independent Citizens Advisory Council Tuesday unanimously approved the text of a letter to Senate and House Appropriations Committee Chairs expressing serious concerns about current funding levels at the Department of Environmental Protection saying, in part, “consistent cuts to DEP over the last 2 decades has reached an unsustainable level.”
“At the same time, reliance on federal funding including augmentations and special funds where appropriate have risen to cover the decreasing General Fund dollars, but this solution also has finite applicability.
 Pennsylvania advocates for the Bay and clean water are hoping for new dedicated funding to clean up the Susquehanna River in the midst of another tough budget year in Harrisburg, where environmental programs are being cut again.
Legislation has been introduced to renew Pennsylvania’s popular Growing Greener program [Senate Bill 795 (Killion-R-Delaware)], which over nearly two decades has poured roughly $1.3 billion into protecting water resources and preserving open space and farmland.
But the Growing Greener program is running short of money, and lawmakers have yet to figure out how to pay for a new round of projects.
Nor are they any closer to finding the increased funds needed to deal with Pennsylvania’s polluted streams and rivers, its lax oversight of drinking water safety or its federally mandated obligation to help clean up the Chesapeake Bay.
It is clear to me that "clean water" should be the Commonwealth's number #1 priority! All else come afterwards. The Pennsylvania Constitution states:  
§ 27.  Natural resources and the public estate.
The people have a right to clean air, pure water, and to the preservation of the natural, scenic, historic and esthetic values of the environment. Pennsylvania's public natural resources are the common property of all the people, including generations yet to come. As trustee of these resources, the Commonwealth shall conserve and maintain them for the benefit of all the people.
(May 18, 1971, P.L.769, J.R.3).

What is the cost of clean water? According to the Circle of Blue's annual report on water rates, between 2010 and 2017 a family of four using 150 gallons per day on average, increase nationally from $72 to $108 per month.
 
So, how do we pay for clean water? In the simplest of terms, there are three ways to pay for clean water:
  1. Consumptive use (i.e., drinking water)
  2. Productive use (e.g., anybody who uses the public domain of water to produce goods and/or services for profit), and
  3. Restorative use (i.e., wastewater treatment; pollution abatement and mitigation; source water protection).
I've always been reminded of the value of clean water from the old Maxwell House coffee commercial - "good to the last drop".

We'd like to hear from you and your ideas and suggestions on how Pennsylvania should fund clean water sustainably for today, and future generations.


 

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Chesapeake Bay Implementation Plan Listening Session June 5, Formal Comment Period Now Open



DEP also formally published notice in the June 3 PA Bulletin. The comment period on the planning process is open and will be accepting comments until July 7.

The purpose of the June 5 listening session is to gather ideas on how to meet the Chesapeake Bay cleanup milestone in each of these areas: urban and suburban stormwater, wastewater, agriculture, forestry, funding and local planning and area goals. 

Public input is specifically being invited to determine what initiatives are needed in agriculture, forestry, funding, local planning, stormwater and wastewater to improve the health of local streams, rivers and lakes.
The public is encouraged to answer the following questions in their comments: 
  1. What key elements need to be included for this effort to be a success? What priority issues must be addressed in the Phase 3 WIP for you to consider it a success?
  2. That measurable outcome does the Commonwealth need to achieve by 2025 that would make this effort successful? 
  3. Is there a particular initiative, action, partnership or training that would aid this effort?, and 
  4. Are there possibilities for continuing and enhancing current projects or initiatives?

In 2010, the EPA established a Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) to address chlorophyll-A, dissolved oxygen and clarity impairments within the Chesapeake Bay. A TMDL is a regulatory term in the Federal Clean Water Act describing a value of the maximum amount of a pollutant that a body of water can receive while still meeting water quality standards.
Nitrogen, phosphorus and sediment are the main pollutants to the Chesapeake Bay that cause the previously listed issues. WIPs are the roadmaps for how the Chesapeake Bay states, in partnership with Federal and local governments, will achieve the Chesapeake Bay TMDL allocations.
The Commonwealth is mandated by the EPA to reduce nitrogen, phosphorus and sediment levels in waterways in the Chesapeake Bay watershed counties by 2025.
The Commonwealth fell short of its Phase 1 goal, set in 2010, and Phase 2 goal, set in 2012.
This year, the EPA is conducting a midpoint assessment of these levels, the results of which will define how the Commonwealth designs its Phase 3 WIP to achieve the desired reductions in pollutants.
Since the Commonwealth has not met the EPA's requirements to reduce water pollution under the requirements of Federal court orders and regulations, the Commonwealth is working to focus and increase resources and technical assistance, reinvigorate partnerships and create a culture of compliance in protecting the Commonwealth's water quality.
Comments, including comments submitted by e-mail, must include the originator's name and address. Commentators are encouraged to submit comments using the Department's online eComment system. You can also see the comments submitted by others on that webpage. Written comments should be submitted by e-mail to: ecomment@pa.gov or by mail to the Department of Environmental Protection, Policy Office, Rachel Carson State Office Building, P.O. Box 2063, Harrisburg, PA 17105-2063.  Comments submitted by facsimile will not be accepted.

Over Two Hundred Kick Off Planning to Reduce Water Pollution in Pennsylvania’s Chesapeake Bay Watershed Counties

This past Monday, June 5th, 2017, more than 200 Pennsylvanians representing local governments, the farming community, and other stakeholders gathered today to share ideas for a plan to best achieve federally mandated water pollution reductions in the state’s 43 counties in the Chesapeake Bay Watershed and improve the environment and economy for all.
 
The Departments of Environmental Protection, Agriculture, and Conservation and Natural Resources are partnering in leading the charge.
 
“Clean water is essential to Pennsylvanians’ quality of life,” said DEP Secretary Patrick McDonnell. “We want vital communities. We need healthy farms. We need economic development, jobs, and thriving businesses. All of this depends on clean water sources.”
 
To succeed, the plan must be locally implementable, said McDonnell, accounting for economic realities as well as environmental benefits of clean local waters. This makes on-the-ground committed action essential. 
 
Agriculture Secretary Russell Redding noted that “the agricultural sector accounts for the lion’s share of the clean water challenge. The plan developed from today’s listening session must recognize the co-equal goals of improving water quality while preserving healthy and viable farms.”
 
“We know that many farmers have been voluntarily implementing best management practices on their own sites,” Redding noted, citing positive success stories, such as the best management practices some farmers have initiated on their own. “The 2016 survey tracked and quantified impressive on-farm measures taken at the farmers’ own expense,” he added.
 
DCNR Secretary Cindy Dunn emphasized the importance of connecting more Pennsylvanians to their local streams, rivers, and lakes to help them understand the impact land use has on water. Having trees and other vegetation on a river bank, for example, plays a key role in keeping sediment out of the water. “When land is healthy, water is healthy,” Dunn said, noting that DCNR is working on developing public outreach in this area.
 
The discussions formed the bulk of a daylong public meeting at the Radisson Hotel Harrisburg in Camp Hill hosted by the steering committee leading development of Phase 3 of Pennsylvania’s Chesapeake Bay Watershed Implementation Plan
 
Participants represented township, city, and county governments; the agriculture community; conservation districts; river basin commissions; watershed associations; conservancies; businesses; colleges; and many other entities.
 
In breakout groups, they discussed initiatives they believe are needed in agriculture, forestry, funding, local planning, stormwater, and wastewater to improve the health of local streams, rivers, and lakes. For anyone who couldn’t attend in person, a public online comment period is open through July 7 on DEP eComments.
 
Pennsylvania is mandated by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to reduce nitrogen, phosphorus, and sediment levels in waters in its Bay watershed counties by 2025. The Commonwealth has fallen considerably short of its Phase 1 goal, set in 2010, and Phase 2 goal, set in 2012. 
 
While Pennsylvania has made significant progress toward meeting the EPA targets, particularly since launch of the Chesapeake Bay Restoration Strategy, considerable work remains to be done.
 
The event was scheduled to coincide with the second annual Chesapeake Bay Awareness Week, June 3-10, instituted by the Chesapeake Bay Program.
 
The Watershed Alliance of York (WAY), Inc. was present and participated by leading two discussion sessions, one each on:
  • Need for continuous real-tim water quality monitoring at the local level, and 
  • Enforcing the existing environmental laws and regulations to create positive tension and voluntary compliance 
 Lively discussions were had during both sessions and group consensus on key outcomes and partners were presented to DEP.
 
I encourage all York Countians to get involved and be heard! Clean water is critical to community health, vibrant economies, and the quality of life we all enjoy.

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

 Putting the Bay’s woes in perspective


It’s easy to feel despondent about the rapidity of the progress of the Bay's cleanup. The harder we work to control pollution, the more intractable it can seem. We move forward with upgrades to major wastewater plants, only to stumble with whole towns on failing septic systems.  Or lawmakers pass legislation to combat a major pollution or public health problem, only to weaken the law later or make exceptions that don’t solve the problem. There is much that remains undone. But compared with a lot of places, our region is so far ahead that even a cynic like me savors the moment.

Brief History of Water Pollution

Pollution is not a new phenomenon. In fact, pollution has been a problem since the appearance of our earliest ancestors[1]. Increasing human populations have opened the door to more bacteria and disease. During the Middle Ages, diseases such as cholera and typhoid fever broke out all across Europe. These epidemics were directly related to unsanitary conditions caused by human and animal wastes, and garbage. In 1347, thebacterium Yersinia pestis, carried by rats and spread by fleas, caused the "Black Death" -- an outbreak of bubonic plague. Unsanitary conditions provided the perfect environment for the deadly bacteria to flourish.

By the 1800s, people began to understand that unsanitary living conditions and water contamination contributed to disease epidemics. This new awareness prompted major cities to take measures to control waste and garbage. In the mid-1850s, Chicago built the first major sewage system in the United States to treat wastewater. Soon, many other U.S. cities followed Chicago's lead.
Map of the layout of sewers in Chicago at the end of 1857. Chicago built one of the first sewage systems in the United States to treat wastewater. (Source: NOAA)

Improved sanitary conditions and less disease were important factors in making cities healthier places to live, and helped encourage people to move to urban areas. As cities became more populated towards the end of the 19th century, industrialized cities across Europe and the United States were experiencing a new kind of pollution: waste from industries and factories. In 1897, a report to the Royal Commission on River Pollution detailed the gross industrial contamination of the Tawe River in Wales, noting that it was polluted by "alkali works, copper works, sulfuric acid liquid, sulfate of iron from tin-plate works, and by slag, cinders and smallcoal"[2].

In the United States, industrial chemicals and wastes, including sulfuric acid, soda ash, muriatic acid, limes, dyes, wood pulp, and animal byproducts from industrial mills contaminated waters in the Northeast.

Water and air pollution in U.S. urban areas continued to increase well into the 20th century. The Cuyahoga River in Cleveland, Ohio, which flows into Lake Erie, became so polluted that the water erupted into flames! The first fire occurred in 1936, when a spark from a blowtorch ignited floating debris and oils. Over the next 30 years, the river caught fire several more times.

captionThe Cuyahoga River on fire in 1952. On the far left you can see firefighters battling the blaze from a bridge. (Source: NOAA)


In 1969, another major fire erupted. This time, with the help of news and magazine coverage, the fire prompted the nation to take immediate action against water pollution. The public response to this event helped create the Federal Water Pollution Control Act (1972), commonly called the Clean Water Act. This legislation provides money to improve sewage treatment plants (STPs) and sets limits on the things that industries and STPs can discharge into the water. The Cuyahoga River fires also provided the motivation to create the Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement; establish federal and state environmental protection agencies (Environmental Protection Agency, 2003); and pass the Oil Pollution Act of 1990, which prohibits the discharge of oil into navigable rivers.


Source: The Encyclopedia of Earth. Pollution: A brief history  http://www.eoearth.org/view/article/155294/

Water pollution is on the rise globally

  • Virtually all goods-producing activities generate pollutants as unwanted by-products.
  • The most important water contaminants created by human activities are microbial pathogens, nutrients, oxygen-consuming materials, heavy metals and persistent organic matter, as well as suspended sediments, nutrients, pesticides and oxygen-consuming substances, much of it from non-point sources.  Heat, which raises the temperature of the receiving water, can also be a pollutant. Pollutants are typically the cause of major water quality degradation around the world.
  • Globally, the most prevalent water quality problem is eutrophication, a result of high-nutrient loads (mainly phosphorus and nitrogen), which substantially impairs beneficial uses of water.
  • Projected food production needs and increasing wastewater effluents associated with an increasing population over the next three decades suggest a 10%-15% increase in the river input of nitrogen loads into coastal ecosystems, continuing the trend observed during 1970-95.
  • More than 80% of sewage in developing countries is discharged untreated, polluting rivers, lakes and coastal areas. 
  • Many industries – some of them known to be heavily polluting (such as leather and chemicals) – are moving from high-income countries to emerging market economies.
  • Despite improvements in some regions, water pollution is on the rise globally. 
  •    Source: United Nations World Water Assessment Program (WWAP) http://www.unesco.org/new/en/natural-sciences/environment/water/wwap/facts-and-figures/all-facts-wwdr3/fact-15-water-pollution/

     

     

     

    Pollution Causes 40 Percent Of Deaths Worldwide

  • About 40 percent of deaths worldwide are caused by water, air and soil pollution, concludes a Cornell researcher. Such environmental degradation, coupled with the growth in world population, are major causes behind the rapid increase in human diseases, which the World Health Organization has recently reported. Both factors contribute to the malnourishment and disease susceptibility of 3.7 billion people, he says.

    Source: Cornell University. "Pollution Causes 40 Percent Of Deaths Worldwide, Study Finds." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 14 August 2007. .

Water Pollution - What's in the Water

As technology improves, scientists are able to detect more pollutants, and at smaller concentrations, in Earth’s freshwater bodies. Containing traces of contaminants ranging from birth control pills and sunscreen to pesticides and petroleum, our planet's lakes, rivers, streams, and groundwater are often a chemical cocktail.

Beyond synthetic pollution, freshwater is also the end point for biological waste, in the form of human sewage, animal excrement, and rainwater runoff flavored by nutrient-rich fertilizers from yards and farms. These nutrients find their way through river systems into seas, sometimes creating coastal ocean zones void of oxygen—and therefore aquatic life—and making the connection between land and sea painfully obvious. When you dump paint down the drain, it often ends up in the ocean, via freshwater systems.

In the developed world, regulation has restricted industry and agricultural operations from pouring pollutants into lakes, streams, and rivers. Technology has also offered a solution in the form of expensive filtration and treatment plants that make our drinking water safe to consume. Some cities are even promoting "green" infrastructure, such as green roofs and rain gardens, as a way to naturally filter out pollutants. But you may find a different picture in parts of the developing world, where there is less infrastructure—politically, economically, and technically—to deal with the barrage of pollution threats facing freshwater and all of the species that rely on it.
 Fast Facts
  • In developing countries, 70 percent of industrial wastes are dumped untreated into waters, polluting the usable water supply.
  • On average, 99 million pounds (45 million kilograms) of fertilizers and chemicals are used each year.
  • Portland, Oregon, is actively pursing “green roofs” and “green streets” to prevent sewer overflows into the Willamette River. Chicago, Illinois, now has more than 517,000 acres (209,222 hectares) of vegetated roofs—more than any other U.S. city—which are helping to catch storm water, cool the urban environment, and provide opportunities for rooftop gardens.
Source: National Geographic: Freshwater 101  http://environment.nationalgeographic.com/environment/freshwater/pollution/

Thursday, January 29, 2015

State of the Chesapeake Bay--Are We There Yet?

In 2014 the new Chesapeake Bay Agreement was signed by all of the interested states and DC. The commitments contained in the agreement are the Chesapeake Bay Program's Goals and Outcomes that the signatories will work on collectively to advance restoration and protection of the Chesapeake Bay ecosystem and its watershed. The amount of pollution that flowed from nine major rivers into the Chesapeake Bay in 2013 was below the 25-year average. While scientists expect this to have a positive impact on the long-term health of the nation’s largest estuary, most of the Bay’s tidal waters remain unhealthy: between 2011 and 2013, just 29 percent of the water quality standards necessary to support underwater plants and animals was achieved.

Earlier this month, the Chesapeake Bay Foundation released it's 2014 State of the Bay report which presents a mix of good and bad news. The great news is water quality indicator scores have improved significantly over the 2008 and 2010 scores. The bad news: blue crabs and striped bass are not doing well. CBF goes on to say "we can celebrate the water quality improvements. However, the Bay and its rivers and streams still constitute a system dangerously out of balance.

Are we there yet? Appears not, but appearances may be misleading. Comparing the CBP's indicators to CBF's indicators is like comparing apples and oranges.

Water quality is but one indicator common with both sets of criteria for measuring the Bay's health and its restoration and protection progress. Albeit, the most important indicator. All other indicators measure cultural, economic, land use, ecosystem types and species of concern, all of which either contribute to water quality degradation or respond to it.

ChesapeakeBayStats provides an the overview information provided for Water Quality, the Agriculture and Wastewater Workgroups priorities and progress. Other important work is being conducted by the Chesapeake Bay Program partnership to restore water quality by implementing pollution reduction practices on urban and suburban lands and reducing pollution deposited in the watershed from the air. Progress in implementing the Bay Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) and in achieving milestones set at the 2009 Executive Council Meeting is also described and shown.

For example, looking at the chart titled "Total Pollutant Loads to the Bay" it clear shows we've come a long way since 1985 reducing nitrogen, phosphorous and sediment loading to the Bay and we've almost achieved the 2017 targets set in the agreement and are progressing towards meeting the 2025 targets also.





In contrast to the above, CBFs overview of the state of the bay in 2014 is generally in agreement but this report continues to give poor improvement scores for water quality.




Most interesting is the left side of this graph--from 1600 to 1970--showing the steady decline (i.e., 100 - 25%) in the bay's health over time. This clearly shows what 300 years of land clearing, subsistance agriculture, intensive logging, mining, population growth, and over fishing has contributed to the bay's decline.

Why then, do some folk expect to see rapid improvements (i.e., 25-50%) in water quality and the bay's health in less than 30 years? The fact is it is improving, steadily and more rapidly than its historical decline! I predict that we will cross the threshold of restoration success (i.e., 50%) by 2025.

The Bay and its watershed are recovering and will continue to improve as long as society is committed to its success.


Friday, December 12, 2014

York County WIP - Stormwater Financing

As noted previously, financial resources will likely be needed to plan and implement many of the strategies set forth in this Plan. Among these resources are loans, grants, technical assistance, fundraising, and in-kind services. Funding is available from numerous governmental and non-governmental agencies, as well as private interests. Other stormwater financing options that are becoming more prevalent include taxes, fees, special assessments and bonds. Creative financing, whereby a mix of resources are combined to carry out stormwater planning and implementation projects, will likely be a beneficial avenue to pursue.

Appendix F contains information on an array of local, State, and Federal financial resources. It also includes a brief description of, and links to, guidance documents, casestudies, and training materials that can assist local governments and other stakeholders in understanding the many available funding options for stormwater projects.

When seeking funding, it is important to keep in mind that projects that have been identified in an adopted/approved plan, regional projects, and projects needed to meet permit obligations are often ranked higher. Also in-kind services can often be used to meet grant match requirements. This can range from services provided by the local municipality to services provided by other organizations.

With regard to fundraising, it may be advantageous to have a fiscal sponsorship. Through a fiscal sponsorship, a municipality or organized group can raise funds as charitable contributions without the necessity of obtaining its own 501(c)(3) status. This can serve as an impetus to stimulate project interest and donations. A fiscal sponsorship also allows municipalities/organizations to access grant funds requiring a 501(c)3 applicant. The Community Foundation of York is one entity to pursue for a fiscal sponsorship. Another is the Partnership for Economic Development of York County (PEDYC), however, it only acts as a fiscal sponsor for economic and community development projects in the County that support the goals of the York County Economic Development Plan. There is potential for some stormwater BMP projects to be considered a community or economic development project, particularly when it is a park, parking area, or business area improvement project.

Additionally, many service organizations are available to assist with project implementation, which can result in cost savings. Among these organizations are watershed associations, boy scouts, girl scouts, 4-H clubs, senior centers, church youth groups, civic groups, and environmental organizations. Also, the York County Prison has a program through which supervised inmates can assist with various types of projects.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

York County WIP – IWRP and CBPRPs



A key strategy, supported by PA DEP, that is worthy of specific mention is the preparation of a County or Regional Chesapeake Bay Pollution Reduction Plan (CBPRP). All MS4 municipalities will be required to submit a CBPRP to PA DEP within one (1) year of receiving their MS4 Permit. Through an intergovernmental cooperative effort, a single Plan could be prepared at a lesser cost than multiple individual Plans. This cost savings could then be directed to implementing the BMPs. Additionally, this effort would enable participating municipalities to contribute to potentially larger structural BMP projects that would result in greater strides toward meeting the County targets. Likewise, they would receive credit for contributing to such projects, regardless of whether they were located in their MS4 urbanized area. The premise is that successful implementation of large projects identified in a County or Regional CBPRP could result in the reduction of more pollutants that an abundance of smaller projects listed in individual municipal CBPRPs.

Another notable strategy is using the York County Integrated Water Resources Plan (IWRP) Flowchart Tool. This web-enabled tool (www.paiwrp.com) integrates many of the solutions identified by this WIP into an overall process, addressing water related issues in a holistic manner. The development of a methodology by which municipalities could incorporate the Flowchart Tool into regulations, policies and/or procedures, would facilitate implementation of the County’s WIP, largely by addressing its identified solutions.