Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Prioritizing Five Counties is Key to PA’s Clean Water Efforts

Andrea Sears, Public News Service 

About 1,400 miles of rivers and streams in five priority counties have been damaged by agricultural pollution. (Ruhrfisch/Wikimedia Commons)
About 1,400 miles of rivers and streams in five priority counties have been damaged by agricultural pollution. (Ruhrfisch/Wikimedia Commons)
HARRISBURG, Pa. - Making five Pennsylvania counties a top priority could help put the state back on track to meet its clean-water goals. The Clean Water Blueprint, a six-state agreement to reduce pollution and sediment flowing into Chesapeake Bay, is off course - and Pennsylvania is responsible for most of the excess.

Will Baker, president of theChesapeake Bay Foundation, said he wants the U.S. Department of Agriculture immediately to commit an additional $20 million for use in the counties that are the largest sources of farm runoff.

"Prioritizing restoration efforts to these areas is the most efficient, the most cost-effective way to utilize taxpayer dollars," he said.

Adams, Cumberland, Franklin, Lancaster and York counties add a combined 30 million pounds of nitrogen pollution from agriculture to Chesapeake Bay each year, Baker said.

Practices such as planting buffer areas along waterways not only cut nitrogen pollution but phosphorus and sediment as well. Harry Campbell, executive director of CBF in Pennsylvania, said farmers also benefit from reducing pollution.

"But the only way that they can afford it is with this financial assistance and help," he said. "Sadly, every year, too many are turned away due to the lack of state and federal funding."

Campbell said meeting pollution-reduction commitments in the five counties by 2025 would represent more than half of the entire state's goal for reducing nitrogen pollution.

Baker emphasized that the $20 million could come from funds already in the USDA budget, and said the cleanup effort would have multiple benefits.

"They can save the taxpayer money, create good-paying technical and support jobs, and provide for clean water in Pennsylvania's rivers and the bay downstream," he said.

The CBF said full implementation of the Chesapeake Clean Water Blueprint would increase nature's benefits in Pennsylvania - from cleaner water and air to flood prevention and recreation - by more than $6 billion a year.

More information is online at cbf.org.

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