The Chesapeake Bay Cleanup Mid-Term Report came out on July 27 — lots of scientific jargon, but the bottom line is that the region only achieved about 40 percent of its nitrogen reduction through the end of last year.
I certainly care about the Chesapeake Bay, but my day to day dedication is about the Shenandoah watershed. Fortunately, many of the improvements that help the Bay also directly help our watershed in our own backyard.
Virginia numbers looks good, but only in comparison to some of the other Chesapeake Bay states. Virginia achieved 82 percent of its nitrogen goal and 101 percent of its phosphorus goal for the mid-term assessment.
These figures mask some problematic trends for Virginia. Although wastewater plants are not the largest source of nutrient pollution, they accounted for 70 percent of the watershed’s nitrogen reductions from 2010 through 2017. Front Royal recently upgraded its wastewater plants with a $34M price tag. That is real money and as ratepayers, we are footing the bill.
But, because most wastewater plants, like the Front Royal facility, are now upgraded, nutrient discharges from many of those facilities are likely to increase as population growth and development spur an increase in the volume of water they treat between now and the cleanup deadline in 2025. That means more effort will be needed from areas where progress has been more difficult, such as stormwater and agriculture.
Agriculture, in particular, needs to do a much better job in honestly and forthrightly addressing the overapplication of cattle manure and poultry litter on already saturated fields. When land can no longer absorb the nutrients, it ceases being fertilizer and becomes an untreated animal waste disposal system that flows directly into the Shenandoah.
August is here and summer is flying by. Have you been on the river yet? Give Don Roberts and his crew over at Front Royal Outdoors a call to make it happen. You can reach them at (540) 635-5440 or log on to Front Royal Canoe.