What Will Be Required in Prince William to “Save the Bay”

A federal judge has mandated that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) must protect the environment, and ensure the Chesapeake Bay meets water quality standards. EPA has determined how much nitrogen, phosphorous, and sediment – the three main pollutants – can be dumped into the Bay by each state in the watershed and the District of Columbia.

All states (and DC) are currently sending too much pollution downstream; we need to go on a pollution “diet.”  Meeting the requirements of the Clean Water Act will require all states (and DC) to reduce nitrogen, phosphorous, and sediment to the limits that the bay can absorb.

EPA asked the states to submit Watershed Implementation Plans (WIP’s), describing how states would put new practices in place by 2015 (yes, 15 years from now…) so current pollution levels would be lowered to meet legal requirements.  Virginia’s plan was not acceptable.  Among other problems, EPA noted that Virginia would have allowed 6% too much nitrogen and 7% too much phosphorous.  Virginia’s proposed diet was not strict enough, even if every proposed action was fully implemented.

Since Virginia said it would not cut pollution enough to meet the limits set by EPA, the Federal agency now plans to take unilateral action.  EPA can not regulate pollution coming from individual farms, but EPA can require reductions in nitrogen, phosphorous, and sediment discharged by “municipal separate storm sewer systems” (MS4s).

Prince William has a MS4 permit.  Prince William will have to spend significant $$$ to improve the quality of the water discharged through stormwater ponds.  The political dance between Virginia and EPA is well underway now… and expect Prince William to have to pay the piper.


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