New Report: Chesapeake Bay’s Health Threats Need Federal Remedy

For Immediate Release

Contact: 

Kate Slusark, 212-727-4592

New Report: Chesapeake Bay’s Health Threats Need Federal Remedy

Congressional Agenda Would Complement President’s Plan to Save the Bay

WASHINGTON - A report released today by the Natural
Resources Defense Council compiles the numerous threats facing the
Chesapeake Bay and examines federal solutions to save this national
treasure. This analysis comes on the heels of reports commissioned by
President Obama to clean up the Chesapeake Bay and a draft bill
circulated by Senator Benjamin Cardin (D-MD.).

"It's no
secret the Chesapeake Bay has been struggling for decades to recover
from a variety of threats to its health," said Nancy Stoner,
Co-Director of NRDC's Water Program and co-author of the report. "What
is less well known is that there are solutions --  many of which are
finally underway."

NRDC's new report, Seizing a Watershed Opportunity: NRDC's Plan to Clean Up the Chesapeake Bay and its Beaches,
zooms in on the range of water quality issues in the Chesapeake Bay,
including dangerous algal blooms, harmful bacteria in raw oysters,
plastic bags in tributaries, and economic blows to the crabbing
industry, and where they overlap. It also identifies key legislative
solutions that would help to curtail many of these threats. 

The
legislative agenda outlined in the report would complement and support
Obama's recent Executive Order for the Bay that commissioned seven
recent reports -- including from the Environmental Protection Agency
and Departments of Interior and Agriculture -- on how the federal
government can help restore the health of the Chesapeake. By taking the
steps outlined in Seizing a Watershed Opportunity,
NRDC's Stoner said, Congress can help the Executive Branch make real
progress in cleaning up the historically troubled estuary.

"President
Obama and his Administration are showing historic federal leadership to
help clean up this national treasure," said Stoner. "This report gives
Congress a playbook so it could support efforts from the White House
and deliver the one-two punch we need to finally make a real difference
in saving the Bay."

Seizing a Watershed Opportunity -- from the authors of this summer's Testing the Waters,
NRDC's 19th annual nationwide beachwater quality report -- also
includes beachwater quality information for the Chesapeake Bay,
reporting that Bay beaches in 2008 had better water quality overall
than the national average, but were significantly more polluted than
their ocean counterparts on the Delmarva Peninsula. The report shows
that Bay beaches with the dirtiest water, or highest percentage of
water samples that exceeded health standards, included Fairview Beach
in King George Co., Va. (32 percent), Kurtz Beach in Anne Arundel Co.,
Md., and Red Point Beach in Cecil Co., Md. (17 percent). Though the Bay
beach with the dirtiest water was in Virginia, the 11 others in the
dozen dirtiest were in Maryland.

The legislative agenda outlined in the report to help clean up the Bay includes the following actions, including adoption of:

  • Comprehensive climate change bill out of the Senate this year.
    Climate change -- from increased temperatures and more intense storms,
    to sea level rise - is expected to exacerbate a variety of problems in
    the Bay -- including nutrient pollution, dead zones and disease-causing
    pathogens. It threatens to change the Bay's geography and hurt its
    shellfisheries. There is even concern it will lead to jellyfish blooms,
    according to the report.
  • TheChesapeake Bay Ecosystem Restoration Act, which includes
    an enforceable, cost-effective pollution banking program for nutrient
    reductions in the Bay. This will help address dead zones and harmful
    algal blooms, which are associated with fish kills and health problems
    in people, and have devastating economic impacts to the region's
    fishing industries, as the report details. 
  • The Clean Coastal Environment and Public Health Act to
    provide money for more beachwater sampling in coastal states and to
    require faster testing methods for dangerous pathogens in the water
    that can make them sick. When there are health violations at Bay
    beaches, this bill will help swimmers find out before they dive in.
  • The Water Infrastructure Financing Act
    to provide increased federal funding for water and wastewater
    infrastructure needs, including incentives for green infrastructure
    (which uses soil and vegetation to trap runoff). Stormwater runoff is
    the fastest growing source of pollution in the Bay, and prevention is
    the best way to address it. This bill will help do just that to keep
    algae-causing nutrients, disease-causing pathogens, and toxins out of
    our water and away from our seafood.
  • Controls on highway runoff in the Federal Surface Transportation Reauthorization Act.
    Controls like vegetation buffers can help capture stormwater before it
    flows off of impervious highways into waterways, helping to decrease
    sediment, nutrients and other pollutants in the Bay that lead to beach
    and shellfishery closures. With almost 100,000 miles of federally
    funded highways contributing to this pollution in the Bay, this bill
    can help reduce it.

In addition to this
Congressional agenda, the report identifies areas where the Obama
Administration can strengthen its proposals to fulfill the President's
Executive Order by combating stormwater runoff and pollution from
factory farms.These include calling on the EPA to increase controls on
stormwater runoff, and require more use of low impact development
techniques, which retain and filter rainwater where it falls, rather
than letting it run off into waterways (i.e. green roofs made of
absorbent vegetation and permeable pavement that allows water to
penetrate the material).

The report also calls for EPA
to revise the federal rule regulating manure pollution from factory
farms, a.k.a. Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (CAFOs), which
have dumped undocumented volumes of untreated animal waste into the
watershed for decades, without effective regulation. EPA has committed
to addressing this problem under the Executive Order, and the agency
should do this by requiring all CAFOs to obtain permits and create
manure management plans, according to the report.

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The Natural Resources Defense Council is a national, nonprofit organization of scientists, lawyers and environmental specialists dedicated to protecting public health and the environment. Founded in 1970, NRDC has 1.2 million members and online activists, served from offices in New York, Washington, Chicago, Los Angeles, San Francisco and Beijing.

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