EPA Plans to Set Pollution Caps for the Chesapeake Bay

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Stephen L. Johnson on Nov. 20 renewed the agency's commitment to speed Chesapeake Bay restoration efforts with its partners, while other agency officials outlined plans for an unprecedented effort to set pollution caps needed to meet water quality standards throughout the Bay’s watershed.

“Working together we can turn the tide on a cleaner, healthier Bay,” said Johnson. “It will take the federal government and our partners to solve the challenges of the Chesapeake Bay.”

Johnson said that leadership in the development of a Bay-wide pollution cap, known as a Total Maximum Daily Load, or TMDL, will be among EPA’s significant contributions. The novel process for creating the TMDL – the largest of its kind – was outlined by EPA officials at a Chesapeake Executive Council meeting at Washington, D.C.’s Union Station.

A TMDL is a tool of the Clean Water Act and sets maximum pollutant “loads” that waters can accept without exceeding state water quality standards.

The Bay-wide TMDL is scheduled to be completed in December 2010 and will identify pollutant caps by major river basin in the 64,000-square-mile Bay watershed.

The TMDL will allocate “loadings” of nitrogen, phosphorus, and sediment to all jurisdictions in the watershed, including New York, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, and the District of Columbia.

“This is a major undertaking that will involve substantial public input and close coordination with the states,” said Jon Capacasa, director of the Water Protection Division in EPA’s Region 3, the lead agency for the TMDL development. “This process will help states implement strategies for accelerated restoration activities.”

EPA Region 3 will work closely with modeling and water quality experts at the Chesapeake Bay Program in developing the TMDL and will engage the states in the process through the Bay Program’s committee structure.

EPA also will work with state agencies as they develop accompanying implementation plans that identify specific actions needed to satisfy the caps. The states will provide commitments every two years for the necessary actions.

For information on the TMDL process, visit www.epa.gov/owow/tmdl/.