Thursday 24 May 2018

 Advocates Say New Rule to Limit Manure Represents Biggest Opportunity for Clean Water in 30 Years

(Annapolis, MD) – A Salisbury University economic study shows a new rule to better manage manure would be comparable to, or cost less than, other Chesapeake Bay pollution-reduction efforts, said a coalition of nonprofit organizations working to reduce pollution and increase transparency from agriculture. The study provided an overall cost estimate for the agricultural industry to implement the Phosphorus Management Tool (PMT) using a phased-in approach, which advocates say shows the new rule is workable.

The science-based PMT would reduce pollution by limiting manure applied to farm fields already contaminated with excess phosphorus levels. The rule would improve water quality, protect public health reduce harmful algae blooms.

“Phosphorus pollution from manure is getting worse, not better in the Chesapeake Bay and Maryland waterways. If this continues, Maryland will jeopardize the decades of progress we’ve made to clean up our waters,said Joanna Diamond of Environment Maryland.

Experts say the new manure rule is one of the biggest opportunities to clean up the Chesapeake Bay and local waters in more than 30 years.

It is past time to stop studying this issue and time to start acting,” said Bob Gallagher, of West/Rhode Riverkeeper, Inc. “Rarely can a single initiative achieve such huge pollution reductions in one fell swoop. The new phosphorus rule, like the phosphorus detergent ban of the 1980s, is one of those opportunities to really make a difference.”

When compared to other pollution reduction measures, the cost per pound to reduce phosphorus using the PMT is roughly on par with other investments like cover crops and upgrades to wastewater treatment plants.

For example, one of the most cost effective agricultural practices is planting grass buffers on agricultural lands. Using grass buffers to reduce 48,000 pounds of phosphorus would cost about $12 million per year. Upgrades to wastewater treatment plants expected to reduce 48,000 pounds of phosphorus would cost about $14.9 million each year. According to the study, investing $3.75 million annually to implement the PMT over six years will cost $22.5 million and would reduce 228,000 pounds of chicken litter, which the Chesapeake Bay Program estimates would reduce 48,000 pounds of phosphorus annually.

In 2013, Maryland’s poultry industry made $804 million in revenue. Advocates say the industry needs to help fund pollution clean-up costs and not expect small farmers or taxpayers to pay the full tab.

“This study shows the new phosphorus rule is workable – it’s a question of finding the right way to implement it,” said Karla Raettig of the Maryland League of Conservation Voters. “Cleaning up waterways that suffer from manure pollution must be a top priority for everyone, including poultry processors. They need to play a greater role in the solution. Our waters, our public health and our economy depend on it.”

Advocates also cited concerns about continued delays to reduce phosphorus pollution, even as the state finalizes a renewed permit for concentrated animal feeding operations and counties approve hundreds of new, industrial-sized poultry houses on Delmarva.

“While Maryland continues to delay this much-needed rule to better manage manure, the large-scale poultry industry – and the tons of waste it produces – continue to rapidly expand,” said Kathy Phillips, Assateague Coastkeeper. “It makes no sense for Maryland to produce tons more manure until we have a plan to safely handle it and protect our waters.”

A recent report by the Environmental Integrity Project showed no improvement in phosphorus levels in eight major rivers on Maryland’s Eastern Shore over ten years, with pollution actually worsening in the Nanticoke, the Sassafras and the Transquaking Rivers.

In June, the Baltimore Sun reported on another study that concluded phosphorus produced by the Maryland poultry industry is increasing because of larger birds that produce more waste, and that phosphorus pollution has remained unchanged in nearly two-thirds of the rivers and streams tested and worsened in 16 percent.

Maryland’s 2010 Chesapeake Bay Watershed Implementation Plan (WIP) committed the state to updating the Phosphorus Management Tool in 2011. However, the regulations have been repeatedly delayed due to political objections from agricultural industry lobbyists and pressure from legislative leaders. A study by the Chesapeake Bay Foundation found that failure to fully implement Maryland’s plan to restore the Chesapeake Bay would result in a $700 million annual loss.

According to BayStat, agriculture is the single, largest source of pollution to the Chesapeake Bay and Maryland waterways, and more than half of Maryland’s phosphorus pollution comes from farms. Phosphorus pollution causes algae blooms that threaten public health; kill underwater grasses; harm aquatic life like blue crabs, oysters and fish; and create an enormous “dead zone” in the Bay.

Read a fact sheet for more information about the Phosphorus Management Tool.

Contact: Dawn Stoltzfus, The Hatcher Group, (410) 990-0824

 

DOWNLOAD INFOGRAPHIC ON MANURE AND OUR WATERWAYS

DOWNLOAD PDF OF PRESS STATEMENT

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The Maryland Clean Agriculture Coalition is working to improve Maryland waterways and protect public health by reducing pollution, and increasing transparency and accountability, from agriculture and other associated sources of water degradation.

 

Anacostia Riverkeeper – Audubon Naturalist Society – Assateague Coastal Trust – Blue Water Baltimore – Chesapeake Climate Action Network – Clean Water Action – Common Cause Maryland – Environment Maryland –League of Women Voters of Maryland – Lower Susquehanna Riverkeeper – Maryland League of Conservation Voters – Maryland Pesticide Network – National Wildlife Federation, Mid-Atlantic Regional Center – Potomac Riverkeeper – Sierra Club, Maryland Chapter – South River Federation – Waterkeepers Chesapeake – West/Rhode Riverkeeper

 

The state must make an important decision about how to regulate manure generated by large poultry and dairy farms that pollute the Chesapeake Bay and Maryland waters. Manure waste, like sewage and toxic air emissions, is regulated because it causes harm by contaminating our water.

The reality is that our pollution-reduction practices have not done enough and phosphorus pollution — of which more than 50 percent comes from manure — is rising. Maryland’s animal farms produce an enormous amount of poultry waste, enough to fill M&T Bank Stadium two times annually.

It is all Marylanders’ responsibility to ensure manure does not harm our beautiful rivers, streams, drinking water and the Chesapeake Bay. The Maryland Department of the Environment, jointly with the Maryland Department of Agriculture, holds the regulatory responsibility to ensure that doesn’t happen.

Today, the department is considering renewal of the permit that governs Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations. As with other permits and regulations that seek to protect the environment and public health, this commonsense permit is under threat by strong special interest groups.

The Department of the Environment states the CAFO permit is required to protect water quality. With layer after layer of manure being spread on fields already oversaturated with phosphorus pollution, the state needs the strongest permit possible.

The latest data provided by farmers to the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the state Department of the Environment, compiled by the Environmental Integrity Project, shows manure from poultry farms on the Eastern Shore is being overapplied to farmland and, even when exported from our animal farms, does not usually leave the county of origin. The manure is staying on our land and running into our local rivers and streams. We need to better protect public health and clean water by ensuring accuracy and transparency on manure reporting and compliance with current regulations.

The proposed permit would change the requirement for farmers to inspect their manure sheds from once a week to only once a year. Extreme weather and other issues can and do damage these sheds, which leads to manure running into local rivers and streams. This is a threat to public health. Operators simply must be required to continue to inspect the manure sheds weekly.

Part of making sure farmers keep their farms clean and protect local waters is to ensure excess manure is not spread on fields. Past analysis by the U.S.D.A. has indicated even if CAFO farmers fully utilized the crop and pastureland under their control for manure application, only 40 percent of the manure nitrogen and 30 percent of the manure phosphorous could be absorbed.

The state allows excess manure to be stored uncovered in piles on fields, yet the permit does not track where this excess manure is stored. With so much excess pollutants produced and stored in our watershed, careful manure storage and tracking of where it is applied is essential to reducing discharges of these contaminants into our water.

Lots of people are talking about the Conowingo Dam lately. Political rhetoric and misinformation is flowing faster than the Susquehanna River in flood stage. Our coalition has developed a new website to share the facts about the Susquehanna River, the Conowingo Dam, and the federal relicensing process currently under way. Please visit ConowingoDam.org -- your new credible source for information on this important issue.

 

Our coalition is Lower Susquehanna Riverkeeper, Waterkeepers Chesapeake and American Rivers. Let us know if you would like to join this effort. Contact chris(at)thehatchergroup.com.