A Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (“DEP”) committee that is developing a plan to satisfy a federal mandate that Pennsylvania reduce its release of nutrients and sediment that flow into the Chesapeake Bay has approved preliminary steps that could have significant implications for York and Lancaster Counties. The committee, which is drafting Pennsylvania’s Phase 3 Watershed Implementation Plan (“WIP”), approved an approach on November 30, 2017 that will target counties where the most significant nutrient and sediment reduction goals can be achieved. Topping this list are Lancaster and York Counties.
The release of nitrogen, phosphorus, and sediment to Pennsylvania streams is primarily responsible for pollution issues in the Chesapeake Bay. Most of Chesapeake Bay pollution originates in Pennsylvania. States in the Chesapeake Bay watershed are under a federal mandate to reduce these discharges to meet federal water quality standards.
The approach approved by the DEP committee assumes that each responsible sector, namely agriculture, stormwater, and wastewater, will contribute an equal percentage to the reductions. While it is too early in the process to determine the actual impacts of this action, it could mean both increased enforcement efforts in York and Lancaster Counties as well as more money from state and other sources to fund pollution reduction efforts. While the agriculture sector is by far the greatest contributor to the nutrient and sediment discharges, municipalities and wastewater treatment plants could face additional requirements to achieve reduction targets. Many wastewater facilities have already made significant investments to reduce nutrient discharges. Urbanized municipalities are also required to implement major improvements to address their own stormwater discharges.
Environmental attorneys at Stock and Leader will continue to monitor DEP’s development of its WIP 3 and are available to consult with parties potentially impacted by the plan.