by: Richard C. Stump, III April 3, 2018
In the early 2000’s when we first started to greatly expand our NPDES client base, one of the major happenings in the industry was the addition of Phosphorus and Nitrogen to NPDES permits as a result of the Chesapeake Bay Watershed TMDL. There was major uproar from wastewater treatment plant operators because they had to increase nutrient monitoring, and decrease the amount of these nutrients present in effluents to levels that were (previously) unachievable with the technology available at the time.
As a result of the regulations, many wastewater treatment plants in the Chesapeake Bay Watershed went through multi-million dollar upgrades to achieve the reductions, and today almost every wastewater plant in the Chesapeake Bay Watershed has to test and treat for Total Phosphorus and Total Nitrogen. These analyses are both in our top 20 analyses by volume, and we recently purchased a new cutting-edge instrument to increase our capacity on these critical analyses.
I recently stumbled upon an article in my newsfeed from NPR that reported on the return of grasses and crabs in the Chesapeake over the past few years. According to the article, Marine Scientists believe the increase in underwater grasses is telling them that the conditions are improving.
Most of the nutrient pollution in Maryland, Virginia and Pennsylvania comes from non-point source discharges, specifically farms. Federal and state governments have educated farmers that have since adopted helpful best practices such as riparian buffers and manure disposal.
However, point-source discharge regulations on wastewater treatment plants have also dramatically helped lower algae proliferation, which allows the sunlight to reach seagrass on the estuary floor. So the Chesapeake Bay Regulations have helped.
Personally, I find it very interesting to see such a measurable result of the work we do on the local environment. It took many years, but this success shows the impact we can have on the environment when everyone works towards a common goal. Our team at Suburban really believes in the work that we do, and knows it helps have an impact on our natural environment. Seeing stories like this brings it to life.
It’s also extra close to my heart to see the return of the crabs since Maryland Blue Crabs are a favorite food in my family (they’re actually my 7 year-old daughter’s self-proclaimed favorite!). Let’s hope the progress continues.