Pennsylvania has renewed its commitment to a regional partnership aimed at cleaning up the Chesapeake Bay watershed.
Governor Tom Corbett joined officials from Washington, D.C. and five neighboring states that share the watershed in signing a new agreement at a press conference in Annapolis on Monday.
Under the agreement, the states will collaborate to make fisheries sustainable, reduce toxic contaminants, expand public access to waterways and increase resiliency to impacts of climate change.
The first Chesapeake Bay agreement was signed by Governor Dick Thornburgh in 1983. This is the fourth pact for the group, which also includes the heads of various federal agencies.
“This agreement is a sensible way to approach improving both the water quality and the environment of a region that means so much to all of us,” Corbett said. “I applaud the cooperative efforts of all bay watershed entities that have made this historic agreement possible.”
For its part, Pennsylvania has focused efforts on decreasing agricultural runoff of nitrogen and phosphorous from animal waste and fertilizers. Other pollution sources that impact the Chesapeake Bay include runoff from urban and suburban development, wastewater treatment plants, and septic systems.
Farms in Pennsylvania have reduced nitrogen pollution by more than 13 million pounds each year since 1985, according to the state Department of Environmental Protection. The DEP has also updated its permitting process for wastewater treatment plants, limiting the allowable amount of nutrients in the water that leaves their systems.
Last week, the Chesapeake Bay Foundation (CBF) released its annual report on how states in the watershed agreement are meeting their cleanup goals.
“Ultimately, what we found was that it was a mixed bag, said Harry Campell, CBF’s executive director for Pennsylvania.
In some cases, Campbell said Pennsylvania is exceeding expectations, as with its new permit requirements for wastewater treatment plants, and programs to control barnyard runoff. However, CBF concluded more needs to be done to reduce nitrogen pollution from agriculture.
“That being said, Pennsylvania’s commitment to the bay, if you look at it in the long term, we’ve made significant improvement in pollution load from the Susquehanna River into the Chesapeake Bay,” Campbell said.