Prince William County as well as all interested parties have submitted their comments to the US EPA on the Chesapeake Bay TMDL and that comment period is now closed. I was fortunate to hear a summary of the PWC’s concerns and comments by Prince William County Public Works representative Marc Aveni. The Chesapeake Bay TMDL could eventually mean more monitoring and reporting on the county level and more government control of our lives.
The TMDL proposes very strict standards on both point and non-point sources of pollution. Everything from construction site runoff to individual lawn fertilization could become a regulatory issue. The Chesapeake Bay TMDL allocates nitrogen, phosphorus and sediment pollutant reductions to both point and nonpoint sources to meet the Bay's water quality standards, EPA expects Virginia and the other five watershed states and the District of Columbia to provide EPA with documented "reasonable assurance" that nonpoint source loading reductions will be achieved as a condition for reflecting such reductions in the Bay TMDL.
The meaning of reasonable assurance could be a costly issue in Virginia. Ultimately, because permits under the Clean Water Act (CWA) include effluent limitations necessary to achieve the Virginia’s Chesapeake Bay TMDL water quality standards, if nonpoint sources do not accomplish the loading reductions identified to EPA’s satisfaction or “reasonable assurances” then, more stringent effluent limits will be applied to CWA permits for point sources. This could cost millions upon millions of dollars because the higher level reductions in nutrients simply requires more treatment steps at waste water treatment plants and storm water systems. I am not a big fan of command and control method of regulation for all non-point source pollution. Unfortunately, regulatory command and control of the littlest corners of our lives is the only form of “reasonable assurances” that the US EPA recognizes.
Though the comment period has closed EPA has not yet taken final action on the Chesapeake Bay TMDLs it is clear the new regulations will focus on short-term, two-year goals called milestones by the EPA. Virginia and the six other Chesapeake Bay jurisdictions will be required to meet the soon to be finalized TMDL and future milestones, and will be required to put in place all pollution control measures the EPA deems necessary for a restored Bay no later than 2025. The final TMDL are scheduled to be met by December 31, 2011 and according to comments submitted to the EPA by Prince William County everything from construction site runoff to individual lawn fertilization, limitations on backyard chickens, and horse ownership could be under the microscope in order to meet the new TMDL within the framework of the EPA Chesapeake Bay pollution models. The federal TMDL could eventually mean more monitoring, reporting and possibly even more staff at the county level, though Prince William County Public Works believes they can meet the demands by fully staffing the two vacant FTEs.
Prince William County is holding public hearings on the environmental chapter of the PWC Comprehensive Plan on December 7th at 7:30 pm at the PWC offices at the McCoart Building at One County Complex Ct., Woodbridge, VA. If you have an interest and are local you should be there. I am anxious to hear the concerns of citizens, businesses and developers and to see if these comments relate to the Chesapeake Bay TMDL. I am hoping to gain insight into how Prince William and the other localities within the watershed will manage to navigate the requirements of the TMDL. I do look forward to seeing a fully restored Chesapeake Bay some day.