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The Green Life: Chesapeake Bay Pollution Caps on the Way

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December 08, 2008

Chesapeake Bay Pollution Caps on the Way

Chesapeake_bay Maryland is better known for its crab cakes than its chickens, but the poultry industry is by far the state’s largest agricultural product. While the 650 million pounds of chicken manure produced in Maryland each year make great fertilizer, nitrogen and phosphorus runoff from lucrative chicken operations is pouring into the Chesapeake Bay. As nutrient levels rise, so does algae growth, which deprives other wildlife of oxygen. The result is a 70 percent decline in the bay’s crab population.

Concerns regarding nutrient pollution in Chesapeake Bay have recently come to a head; in September, U.S. Secretary of Commerce Carlos M. Gutierrez declared Maryland’s rapidly declining crab harvests a resource disaster. The Chesapeake Bay Foundation has made motions toward suing the EPA for non-compliance with the Clean Water Act. The EPA responded with a statement of its renewed commitment to rejuvenating the bay by implementing new pollution caps. Now the Maryland Department of the Environment has zeroed in on the state’s chicken farmers.

The New York Times reports:

"Under the proposed regulations, chicken growers would be required to maintain a 35-foot-wide filter strip of vegetation along streams and ditches, or not to apply manure within 50 feet of streams or 10 feet of ditches, and they would be required to keep manure piles more than 100 feet from streams. The permits would also assess fines of up to $32,500 per day if farmers did not correct problems after being told to do so."

The regulations affect only the state's largest chicken farms, bringing Maryland up to speed with the environmental laws of most other states, and may go a long way towards saving the Chesapeake’s endangered fisherman.

-- Mario Aguilar

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