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Severn River May Miss 2017 Cleanup Goals

It doesn’t look like the Severn River will meet its federal water quality cleanup goals by EPA’s interim deadline in 2017.
    The Severn River’s No. 1 pollution threat is from stormwater runoff, which dumps nitrogen and sediment pollution in the river after storm events. Major sources of stormwater runoff are impervious surfaces such as roads, roofs, patios, driveways, graveled areas, parking lots etc.
    The Severn watershed is also under attack from phosphorous and nitrogen pollution from leaking septic systems and lawn fertilizing, as well as car, truck and coal-fired power plant emissions. This pollution helps fuel harmful algae blooms in the warm months.
    However, in general, Maryland will hit one of its 2017 interim pollution targets — to reduce overall nitrogen loadings into the Chesapeake Bay — as demanded by EPA’s so-called pollution diet, according to Maryland Department of Environment’s Lynn Y. Buhl.
    She told attendees at the Severn River Association’s monthly Educational Series meeting Feb. 16 that by the end of next year, Maryland is on track to reduce nitrogen pollution by a total of six million pounds. The bulk of this reduction, four million pounds, is coming from the completion of upgrades to sewage treatment plants in Baltimore (Back River, Patapsco) and Washington, D.C. (Blue Plains).
    By 2025 under EPA’s total maximum daily load regulations, Maryland must further reduce nitrogen loads from the other three sectors — septic systems, agriculture and urban stormwater runoff — to hit its goal of reducing a total of 10 million pounds of nitrogen pollution.
    Meanwhile, Anne Arundel County is ramping up to make a major dent in curbing stormwater runoff and could well be the first jurisdiction to hit the 2025 TMDL targets thanks to the stormwater remediation program funded by the stormwater fee (aka the rain tax).
    Anne Arundel County’s Erik Mickelson, administrator of the Watershed Protection and Restoration Program, will present an update on our county’s stormwater remediation efforts at Severn River Association’s next Educational Series meeting on March 15.

–Tom Guay for the Severn River Association