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Report: Pa. not hitting Chesapeake Bay pollution reduction targets

By - Last modified: December 11, 2012 at 9:35 AM

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Pennsylvania is not getting the job done on reducing pollution runoff into the Chesapeake Bay, an environmental group is charging.

Nitrogen discharges from industrial sources and municipal sewage plants in Pennsylvania increased 4 percent from 2010 to 2011, the Washington, D.C.-based Environmental Integrity Project said in a report released Thursday.

That moves the state "further from achieving Bay water quality goals," the group said.

Pennsylvania and other Chesapeake Bay watershed states have committed to significantly reducing the nitrogen, phosphorous and sediment runoffs into waters that reach the bay in order to reverse decades of environmental damage.

The EIP singled out Harrisburg's and Lancaster's wastewater treatment facilities for specific mention. They are among eight facilities in the watershed identified as having increased nitrogen discharges in 2011 by 50,000 pounds or more.

Mandated nitrogen limits appear not to be in effect for at least 45 major facilities in Pennsylvania, sites that collectively discharged more than 3 million pounds of the pollutant, the EIP said.

Nor have watershed states established limits for about 5,000 smaller municipal and industrial facilities, even though at least some appear to be major pollutant emitters, the EIP said. The organization cited PPL's Brunner Island power plant, saying it released nearly 60,000 pounds of nitrogen into the Susquehanna River in 2011.

"If this monitoring data is accurate, such facilities belong on the list of significant plants" that have their limits individually set, the EIP said.

Nitrogen runoff has declined in Maryland and Virginia, but those states, too, could do more to improve outcomes, the report suggested.

The organization called on states to improve their permitting and enforcement procedures.

"There are common-sense steps the Bay states should take to reduce industrial and municipal pollution," EIP attorney Tarah Heinzen said in a statement.

The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection is reviewing the report and could not comment Monday, spokeswoman Amanda Witman said.

Write to the Editorial Department at editorial@cpbj.com

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