Ruling preserves EPA plan to clean the Chesapeake Bay watershed

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PARADISE TWP., Pa. - The multi-state plan to clean up the Chesapeake Bay remains in place after a federal court ruling found in favor of the EPA and conservationists' plan to limit pollutants.

Earlier this week, the 3rd District Circuit Court of Appeals ruling upheld an EPA plan to establish a total maximum daily load, or TMDL, of how much of pollutants like nitrogen, phosphorus and sediment can drain into the bay.

“What the Bay TMDL does is put the Bay on a diet to basically require some stemming back of those pollutants that run off the land into the water,” Donna Morelli, state director for the Alliance for the Chesapeake Bay, said.

The goal is a 20 to 25 percent pollution reduction in the Chesapeake by 2025. Scientists say that pollution causes algal blooms and dead zones in the bay that impact drinking water and living things.

“Once people understand that everything we do on the land has an impact on the water, then they understand why their local government might be asking them to do certain things,” Morelli said.

But some local farmers remain unconvinced, and worry the regulations are onerous on their businesses.

“What they're trying to do is create rules that are impossible for farmers to follow,” Don Ranck, who runs Verdant View Farm in Paradise Twp., Lancaster County, said.

Groups like the Pennsylvania Farm Bureau are concerned the ruling would lead to thousands of acres of land currently used for crops to be forcefully converted to other uses, and that the work farmers are doing to help clean water often goes unnoticed by the EPA.

“All the large animals are half of what they used to be 60 years ago, so where is the problem?” Ranck said. “We're not producing more manure that's being spread on the ground. It's half the amount it used to be.”

The American Farm Bureau Federation said it would wait a few days to analyze the ruling before deciding whether to appeal.