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July 10, 2012

Health of Chesapeake improving partially because of local efforts

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DailyProgressBy Courtney Beale
Charlottesville Tomorrow
Tuesday, July 10, 2012

The James River Green Building Council welcomed Ann B. Jurczyk, the Virginia outreach and advocacy manager for the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, to Charlottesville on Tuesday to speak about pollution reduction in the Chesapeake Bay.

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Ann B. Jurczyk, Chesapeake Bay Foundation

Jurczyk described ways to help the area meet its goals to improve the health of the bay under what is known as Phase 2 of the Watershed Implementation Plan.

In December 2010, the EPA established a “pollution diet” for the Chesapeake Bay. Each state was assigned a Total Maximum Daily Load of pollutants that can be released into the bay.

In accordance with WIP Phase 2, localities within the bay watershed have submitted their plans for achieving pollution reductions. This will be done through reducing sediment, nitrogen and phosphorous runoff in local streams and rivers.

“Collectively I think we’ve all got an opportunity to share in some of the [pollution] reductions,” Jurczyk said. “If we can clean up locally, eventually the bay will take care of itself but we have to start here, with what goes on in our backyard.”

Both the city of Charlottesville and Albemarle County have submitted their input for the WIP. Both localities will create an inventory of current best management practices and increase BMP installations. Charlottesville will also conduct stormwater retention retrofits on school and city property and educate the public on the importance of reducing pet waste, among other things.

The difference between WIP Phase 2 and plans of the past is that it establishes attainment checkpoints every two years. This will allow localities to track their pollution levels and make adjustments as needed.

The state of Virginia is on target to meet its next check in. Jurczyk’s presentation coincided with Gov. Bob McDonnell’s Friday news release praising Virginia’s efforts in cleaning up the bay.

McDonnell congratulated wastewater treatment facilities for reducing the amount of nitrogen they release by more than 2,000 percent. He also acknowledged that in 2011 the EPA recognized Virginia as the mid-Atlantic state with the greatest reduction of bacteria and phosphorus released into rivers and streams.

Jurczyk also commended these achievements, partly attributing their success to funding that has allowed farmers and wastewater treatment facilities to install BMPs like facility upgrades and fences to separate livestock from waterways.

“Wastewater treatment and agriculture have done a good job,” Jurczyk said. “Where we are having a hard time keeping up with pollutants, where we're going backward, is stormwater.”

Jurczyk partially credited the increase in stormwater runoff to Virginia’s increasing population.

“As we have an increasing number of people coming into the watershed our individual footprints are adding up and that’s why that number is going backwards,” Jurczyk said.

Jurczyk encouraged audience members interested in maintaining current bay preservation practices to monitor federal legislation that could maintain or reduce conservation funding for farmers in the 5th District. Robert Jennings, grassroots field specialist for the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, stressed the importance of federal funding for protecting the bay from agricultural runoff.

“It’s one thing to point a finger at farmers and say, you need to clean up your act,” Jennings said. “It’s another to actually help them do it.”

Jennings also stated that funds received in the 5th District would be used in partnership with local organizations like the Rivanna River Basin Commission, the Thomas Jefferson Soil and Water Conservation District and various farming cooperative extensions to increase their efforts in bay conservation.

If all localities in the bay watershed can realize their individual goals, the bay coul be removed from the national impaired waters list by 2025. Jurczyk stated that a healthy Chesapeake Bay is attainable and the 2025 TMDL goal of 187 pounds of nitrogen is within our reach.

“Two-hundred and fifty-six million pounds of nitrogen is where we are right now,” Jurczyk said.  “We’re not trying to get the number down to zero. [One hundred and eighty-seven million pounds] is the amount that the bay can absorb and still be a healthy estuary.”

The next JRGBC luncheon on water conservation will be held on Aug. 14, at noon in CitySpace.

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