Plant Health Care in Richmond, VA

Virginia grant: The state plans to reapply for the $1.2 million grant the EPA withheld

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Virginia is reapplying for $1.2m from EPA

Virginia is in the process of reapplying for $1.2 million in grant funds withheld by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency over concerns the state isn’t moving quickly enough to reduce pollutants entering the Chesapeake Bay through stormwater runoff.

Gary Waugh of the Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation said they have until Sept. 20 to reapply, “and we have already let the EPA know we don’t think there’ll be any problem at all with meeting that deadline.”

The funds are being withheld from a $2.4 million grant for the year, a move that took state officials by surprise, Waugh said. The state is using those funds to develop a means to track and manage harmful amounts of nutrients, such as phosphorus and nitrogen, that drain into the bay.

The EPA is also concerned about the state’s lag in developing new federal stormwater permits for 11 localities around the state, he said — six of them in Hampton Roads, including Newport News and Hampton. Portsmouth, Chesapeake, Norfolk and Va. Beach are the others.

Like the five other states and D.C. in the Chesapeake Bay watershed, Virginia is on a “pollution diet,” or Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL), imposed by the EPA in 2010 after the state failed for decades to meet water quality compliance for the largest estuary on the continent. Nutrients and sediment in stormwater sewage runoff are a major source of bay pollution.

The EPA expects to see reductions in those nutrients included in new stormwater permits, said Waugh, “so that’s a major change from what we’ve done in the past.”

But those permits are long overdue, said Peggy Sanner, state senior attorney with the Chesapeake Bay Foundation.

“To say it’s slow is an understatement,” Sanner said.

The state works closely with each locality on its permit, setting specific steps the locality must take to reduce runoff, such as ensuring that no automobile fluids leak into waterways, and storm water outflows aren’t blocked, she said.

Waugh said the state has completed and submitted a draft permit for Arlington and expects the EPA to finish its review next month. Once it’s approved, it could serve as a template for the remaining 10 localities.

Sanner said she’s concerned that the state hasn’t said when it will draft the remaining permits.

She’d also like to see each permit specify interim deadlines for meeting specific benchmarks, rather than current draft language stating a locality will take “means and methods” to reach its goal at the end of the five-year period.

The state must reduce nutrients and sediment entering the bay by 5 percent in this permit period, which runs for five years, Sanner said. The reduction must increase in the permit period after that, with the remaining reduction required in 15 years.

Cash-strapped localities are concerned about how to meet those reduction goals, which could include such things as infrastructure improvement, but Sanner said it’s doable.

“Virginia has been very careful in working out a program designed to keep the cost to a minimum and enable the appropriate building up of a locality’s resources to address that in a deliberate manner,” she said.


Written by vaphc

September 14, 2012 at 7:49 am

Posted in Uncategorized

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