EPA Approves Plan Outlining Coastal Bays Pollution Limits

OCEAN CITY — With so much focus on restoring the Chesapeake Bay, Maryland’s coastal bays in and around Worcester County got a fiscal shot in the arm this week when the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) approved the state’s proposed budget for cleaning up pollution in the local waterways.

The budget calls for pollution reductions in the coastal bays of up to 35 percent for nitrogen and up to 18 percent for phosphorous. Higher reductions are required in some of the bays’ tributaries.

The pollution limits, designed to improve conditions for aquatic life and shellfish harvesting, are outlined in a series of Total Maximum Daily Loads, or TMDLs, submitted to the EPA by the Maryland Department of the Environment (MDE). A TMDL is essentially a calculation of the maximum amount of a pollutant a body of water can absorb and tolerate while still meeting the state’s water quality standards.

The TMDLs laid out in the state’s pollution budget plan include the Assawoman Bay, Isle of Wight Bay, Sinepuxent Bay, Newport Bay and Chincoteague Bay in the coastal bays watershed. Each of the bays is listed as impaired to various degrees by nitrogen and phosphorous on Maryland’s list of impaired waterways. Federal officials praised the state and the Maryland Coastal Bays Program for their efforts to protect and restore the local waterways.

“The state of Maryland is showing real environmental leadership in restoring its coastal waters,” said EPA Regional Administrator Shawn Garvin. “Creating a solid plan of action opens the door to better water quality for aquatic life and shellfish harvesting.”

Meanwhile, state officials said the plan of action will reduce pollution and restore water quality in the coastal bays while protecting Maryland’s treasure natural resources.

“The MDE appreciates the support of Worcester County and our other partners in the Maryland Coastal Bays Program and the members of the Coastal Bays Implementation Program,” said MDE Secretary Robert Summers. “Putting this blueprint to reduce pollution in place will continue to allow future generations of Marylanders to enjoy fishing, swimming and recreating in the waters of one of the state’s greatest natural treasures.”