Search Results for: "Chesapeake Bay"

Farm Conservation Practices are Working in the Chesapeake Bay Watershed

Farmers are implementing conservation practices that are both good for their business and improving water quality

Farmers are implementing conservation practices that are both good for their business and improving water quality

by Kelly Shenk

As the agricultural advisor for EPA’s mid-Atlantic region, I’ve had the opportunity to accompany the EPA mid-Atlantic Regional Administrator in talks with farmers throughout the Chesapeake Bay watershed through roundtable discussions and tours of their farms. We’ve observed their successes, challenges, and opportunities.  It’s encouraging to see how engaged farmers are in implementing conservation practices that are both good for their business and improving water quality.

Last month the Chesapeake Bay Program reported that pollution controls put in place over the last four years have resulted in an estimated 7% reduction of nitrogen, 11% reduction of phosphorus, and 6% reduction of sediment in the Bay Watershed.

Agriculture is responsible for about one-third of these reductions because producers have stepped up their conservation practices such as cover crops that take up residual nitrogen and phosphorus in the soil after crops are harvested. Other effective conservation practices include tillage that prevents nutrients and sediment from running off of cropland; and fencing to keep cows out of streams.

While this progress is encouraging, there’s still much that needs doing to restore the Bay.  Using 2009 as a baseline, the Chesapeake Bay TMDL or pollution diet calls for having measures in place by 2017 to achieve at least 60 percent of the pollution reductions necessary for restoring the Bay to water quality standards.  The Bay jurisdictions are in the process of achieving this objective through upgrading of wastewater treatment plants and septic systems, increased implementation of agricultural conservation practices, improving urban stormwater management, and addressing air pollution sources. All sources are tackling their share of the challenge

The pace of the Bay jurisdictions’ pollution reduction efforts will get quicker moving forward.  For agriculture, I think the keys to success are strong state programs, targeted federal and state financial and technical assistance, incentives that engage more producers, and continued innovation.

We’re encouraged by some of the progress that’s already being made.  We are seeing increased financing for high priority practices promoted by the States such as stream exclusion and cover crops.  States are strengthening their programs for addressing water quality concerns from small animal operations.  We’re also seeing incentives such as Ag Certainty programs to engage more producers in conservation practices.

In my time out in the field, I am always inspired at the creativity and innovation of farmers.  With a good knowledge of the States’ pollution reduction goals, targeted financial and technical assistance, and the flexibility to reach water quality goals in a way that works for their business, I’m confident they can get the job done.  But it will take all of us working together in all sectors, building on the progress that we’ve made thus far, and staying on track to reaching our goals of restoring our local waters and the magnificence of the Chesapeake Bay.

Kelly Shenk is EPA Region III’s Agricultural Advisor

Protecting the Chesapeake Bay

By Lina Younes

Over the summer, I had the opportunity to visit several sites in Maryland and Virginia along the Chesapeake Bay. I marveled at the beauty of this important watershed. Did you know that the Chesapeake Bay watershed covers six states and Washington, DC? In fact, it’s the largest estuary on the U.S. mainland.

Even if you don’t live along the coast, did you know that what you do at home, at school, at work or in your community affects the water quality and well-being of this important ecosystem? So, what can you do to protect the bay or your local watershed? Here are some tips:

  •  Use water wisely. Start by turning off the faucet when brushing your teeth or shaving. Also, take shorter showers instead of baths. Make sure that you have a full load of laundry or dishes before using the washer and/or dishwasher. Repair leaking faucets and toilets.
  • If you like gardening, plant native plants. They require less water and nutrients and are more resistant to pests.
  • As part of your next landscaping project, consider planting a rain garden. It’s a great way to reduce water runoff.
  • Keep your car in shape to avoid oil leaks, which contaminate water. If you change your car’s oil yourself, take the used oil to a service station for recycling. Did you know that used oil from one oil change can contaminate one million gallons of fresh water?
  • Use greener cleaning products with the Design for the Environment (DfE) label. They’re safer, they protect our water and they’re better for the environment as a whole.
  • Get involved in your community to increase awareness of water quality. Participate in a stream or park cleanup activity.
  • Pick up after your dog. Don’t let his waste pollute our water.

If you’re still doubtful of the link between your activities and water conservation, I recommend you watch this video so you can be part of the solution.

What did you think? Do you have any suggestions? We would love to hear from you.

About the author:  Lina Younes has been working for EPA since 2002 and currently serves the Multilingual Communications Liaison for EPA. She manages EPA’s social media efforts in Spanish. Prior to joining EPA, she was the Washington bureau chief for two Puerto Rican newspapers and she has worked for several government agencies.

The Power of Partnerships: Habitat Restoration in the Chesapeake Bay

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Brown pelicans are among the many species of birds that visit Poplar Island

By Ross Geredien

Last November, I accompanied U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) biologists to inspect a unique habitat restoration project led by the FWS Chesapeake Bay office. Here’s my account of that day:

The wind stings my face as we skim across the water. To my left, the bay’s silvery sheen meets leaden clouds at the southern horizon. I look to my right and see a northern gannett, a large, oceanic bird, floating on the surface.

I’m on a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service workboat, heading across Chesapeake Bay at 24 knots. It’s a brisk morning, and our destination is Poplar Island, where the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers deposits the dredge spoil from Baltimore Harbor’s approach channels.

Poplar once boasted a lively fishing community, complete with weekend retreats and abundant wildlife. From 1840 to 1990, erosion reduced the island to just 10 acres. Since 1998, however, spoil deposits have restored Poplar to over 1,100 acres of productive marshland, and wildlife is once again flourishing.

Upon reaching the island, some 90 brown pelicans perch nearby. “It’s unusual to see this many,” says Chris Guy, one of the biologists. “Especially this late in the season,” responds Pete McGowan, another biologist. We discuss how recent storms have blown them off-course. They have found refuge at Poplar.

Over 200 bird species use Poplar Island during the year. As we explore the island, thousands of geese and ducks congregate on large, artificial ponds called cells. We also see uncommon species: night-herons, dowitchers, swans, and loons. The abundant waterfowl attract predators like birds of prey. Indeed, in the afternoon a rare short-eared owl flushes from the grass. “First of the season!” shouts Chris.

What makes all this possible? Poplar Island is a partnership among federal and state agencies. The Corps of

Aerial view of Poplar Island in the Chesapeake Bay (Photo provided by U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service)

Engineers manages the dredge spoil operation under the Clean Water Act. The Maryland Environmental Service monitors water quality and nutrients while the Fish and Wildlife Service supervises the restoration. The University of Maryland also investigates a variety of ecological questions here. As a fellow working in the EPA’s wetlands program and a former biologist with the Maryland Wildlife Service, this intersection of wildlife, Chesapeake Bay, and clean water issues naturally resonates with me.

The weather has turned fair as we depart, wind-blown spray glistening in the sunlight. I leave Poplar with a new appreciation of the Chesapeake Bay ecosystem and the efforts to restore its habitat.

About the author: Ross Geredien is a fellow with the Oak Ridge Institute for Science and Education serving in the EPA’s Office of Water, where he works on wetlands permitting issues. Previously, Ross was a wildlife biologist for the Maryland Dept. of Natural Resources where he mapped the state’s rare, threatened and endangered species.

What a Farm Can Tell Us About The Chesapeake Bay

Who would have thought a farm 20 miles from Washington, DC would directly affect the Chesapeake Bay? Did you know the Chesapeake Bay watershed reaches into six states?

Clagett Farm, in Upper Marlboro, MD was donated nearly 30 years ago by a family to the Chesapeake Bay Foundation. What once was a tobacco farm is now home to an organic farm whose purpose is multidimensional. Its main purpose, though, is education. I recently spent the day with my daughter Gabby as part of a field trip with her middle school. The day consisted of moving grass-fed, free-range cattle and chickens; planting onions and flowers; learning about composting; and how what we do on land directly impacts the quality of the bay’s waters.

Gabby planting sunflower seeds


What an amazing way to learn about the environment and how I affect it. I didn’t realize how much my own actions could affect the Chesapeake Bay, but this place called Clagget Farm showed me.

Some of my classmates and I went to Clagett Farm on a field trip. When we arrived, we met Phillip and Melissa, our educators for the day. We played a trivia game in a barn using maps of the Chesapeake and the surrounding area. We learned about how when you plant trees, it keeps the dirt from going into the bay.

Glowing Water

Melissa Simmons demonstrates how fertilizer runoff finds its way into the waters of the Chesapeake Bay

I really liked how we learned about how the different surfaces affect the water going into the bay. The suburban lawn with fertilizer on it had dye in it to make it show bright yellow-green so we could see the fertilizer in the water. We also saw how the forest area made the water clean.

I got to plant sunflower seeds and eat bok choy right from the ground. It kind of tasted like lettuce but very fresh.

Herding cows was fun but stepping in cow pies was not. We got to move them from one field to another so they could get fresh grass. The old manure would make the grass grow back so they would be able to move back to the previous area.

What an amazing day! I learned so much about how what I do is connected to the water and the animals both in it and surrounding it.


The experiment using surface types consisted of a hillside that was prepared with surfaces including urban sprawl, suburban lawn, cover crops, tilled fields and forest. For visual effect, dye was added to the water to illustrate how much fertilizer is washed away versus being absorbed. I liked seeing how Gabby reacted to the bright green color of the water.

Runoff experiment at Clagett Farm

The message being that fertilizer isn’t necessarily bad on lawns in correct amounts; the issue is when too much is applied, it runs eventually into the Chesapeake. But the larger message of the experiment is that paved surfaces, groomed lawns and traditionally tilled fields can negatively affect the Chesapeake Bay, whereas limiting fertilizers, planting cover crops and forested areas positively affect the health of the bay.

About the authors: Danny Hart has been with EPA since 2006. He’s the Associate Director of Web Communications. Gabby Hart is in the 7th Grade, loves dance and wants to be a doctor.

Green for Green in the Chesapeake Bay

By Nancy Grundahl

Are you interested in pursuing green streets, green infrastructure and green jobs in your community?  Are you located in the Chesapeake Bay watershed?  If so, you’ll want to read on.

The Chesapeake Bay Trust, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, and the state of Maryland have unveiled an expanded Green Streets-Green Jobs-Green Towns grant initiative to help cities and towns in the Chesapeake Bay watershed accelerate greening efforts that improve watershed protection, community livability and economic vitality.

More than $400,000 will be awarded this year. For each project, up to $35,000 is available for infrastructure project planning and design, and up to $100,000 for implementation and construction.

The grant program is open to local governments and non-profit organizations in urban and suburban watersheds in the Chesapeake Bay region of Maryland, D.C., Delaware, Pennsylvania, Virginia and West Virginia.

This is a great opportunity to boost the local economy and protect water resources!

The request for proposals and more information is available on-line at the Chesapeake Bay Trust website. The deadline for applications is March 9, 2012, so don’t wait!

About the author: Nancy Grundahl has worked for the Philadelphia office of EPA since the mid-80’s. Nancy believes in looking at environmental problems in a holistic, multi-media way and is a strong advocate of preventing pollution instead of dealing with it after it has been created. Nancy likes to garden and during the growing season brings flowers into the office. Nancy also writes for the EPA “It’s Our Environment” blog.

Chesapeake Bay Road Trip!

Public Meeting Locations

By Christina Catanese

This fall, EPA will travel all around the Chesapeake Bay watershed to hold 18 public meetings to discuss the Chesapeake Bay Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL), or the strict “pollution diet” to restore the Bay and its network of local rivers, streams and creeks.  After EPA issues the draft TMDL on September 24th, the agency will go on the road for the 45-day public comment period to get your feedback.  So pack some snacks in the car and throw on your favorite driving music, and join in the Chesapeake Bay public meetings road trip!

From the southeastern coast of Virginia all the way up to New York State, citizens in the watershed will have a chance to hear more about the new nitrogen, phosphorus and sediment limits for the watershed.  Starting at the National Zoo in Washington DC on September 29 and ending in Romney, WV in early November, public meetings will be held in each of the six states and D.C. that are part of the Chesapeake Bay’s far-reaching watershed.  One meeting in each state will also be broadcast online via webinar for those unable to attend in person.

Do you live in the Chesapeake Bay watershed?  Are you interested in learning about the Bay TMDL and how it will help improve waters in your area as well as the nation’s largest estuary?  EPA wants to hear your suggestions as it seeks to protect human health and the environment by improving water quality in the bay and its vast drainage area.  And check out the Bay TMDL web site ( for information on how to submit formal comments to EPA on the Bay TMDL.

I’m planning to attend the meeting in Lancaster, PA on October 18…what about you? Visit the Bay TMDL website to find a public meeting near you.

About the Author: Christina Catanese has worked at EPA since 2010, and her work focuses on data analysis and management, GIS mapping and tools, communications, and other tasks that support the work of Regional water programs. Originally from Pittsburgh, Christina has lived in Philadelphia since attending the University of Pennsylvania, where she earned a B.A. in Environmental Studies and Political Science and an M.S. in Applied Geosciences with a Hydrogeology concentration. Trained in dance (ballet, modern, and other styles) from a young age, Christina continues to perform, choreograph and teach in the Philadelphia area.

Cleaning the Chesapeake Bay

About the author: Lina Younes has been working for EPA since 2002 and chairs EPA’s Multilingual Communications Task Force. Prior to joining EPA, she was the Washington bureau chief for two Puerto Rican newspapers and she has worked for several government agencies.

As I’ve mentioned before, my weekend agenda is pretty much controlled by the activities that my youngest has scheduled. Recently, she was invited to a friend’s birthday party in Pasadena, MD. The home where they were having the party was about 45 minutes from our house. I had never been to the area and it wasn’t until we got there that we discovered the house was right on the Chesapeake Bay! There was a beautiful view of the majestic Chesapeake, the largest estuary in the nation, right at our footsteps.

I started speaking with the mom and she told me how they had recently moved into their new home. She also mentioned that she was looking forward to the spring to start gardening and planting new flowers and trees in her yard. I recommended that she plant native shrubs and trees which would help protect the Bay. Native plants reduce the need to use pesticides and fertilizers. Letting these shrubs grow densely along the waterway prevents non-point source pollution and erosion. Greenscaping techniques are beneficial anywhere you live and near a watershed these techniques have an added value.

There are several simple steps you can take at home to prevent non-point source pollution from harming such a national treasure or any watershed for that matter. As we get closer to Earth Day, we can start to think of ways to encourage our children and communities to get involved in environmental protection. The protection of our waterways is a good place to start. With spring just around the corner, there are many green activities which the entire family will enjoy.

Leaving a Clean Water Legacy

by Tom Damm

Jon Capacasa

Jon Capacasa

As you approached Jon Capacasa’s office, the first thing you noticed were the articles, notes and other tidbits of progress and encouragement taped to his door, centered with the words, “Celebrate! Celebrate!”

During Jon’s more than 42-year career at EPA, including the past 13 years as director of the Mid-Atlantic Region’s Water Protection Division, there was much to celebrate in his commitment to clean water.

Jon retired this week having served as a leading figure in the major initiatives and innovative actions that distinguished the region in improving water resources and public health.

His biggest impact was on the Chesapeake Bay – from the time on a Sunday in 1990 when he was called at home and asked to serve as the Bay’s Special Assistant to the Regional Administrator.

From there, he helped to start the Chesapeake Bay Program Office, served for a year as its first acting director and then nine years as its deputy director, guided the planning and drafting of the Chesapeake 2000 Agreement, and had a chief role in developing and implementing the landmark Chesapeake Bay TMDL, or “pollution diet.”

Along the way, Jon issued a nutrient permitting approach that helped the wastewater sector achieve its Bay pollution goals 10 years ahead of schedule – topping the list of positive signs of Bay progress that include sharp increases in bay grasses, blue crabs and oysters, a majority of cleaner running rivers and a shrinking “dead zone.”

But Jon’s career has involved far more than the Bay.

Among his hallmark achievements, Jon co-founded the Schuylkill Action Network and helped form other key partnerships to protect source waters, established three of the top five penalty actions in Clean Water Act history, led efforts to restore streams and rivers – from the Delaware to the “forgotten” Anacostia, drove new technologies, and was a pioneer in the green infrastructure movement to control stormwater pollution and improve communities.

Jon is quick to acknowledge the team effort involved in his work, taking pride in the positive reinforcement he provides to staff to achieve incremental success and “turn great ideas into reality.”

The office items Jon packed up over the past few days are a reflection of his career as well as his approach to the job and life in general.  Among them were:

  • A framed copy of the Bay TMDL cover with a pen used to sign it.
  • Photos of his family and one of Roberto Clemente, a boyhood baseball hero, whose creativity, excellence and low-key manner served as an inspiration.
  • A host of plaques and awards.
  • An “Easy” button that was rarely pressed considering the tough decisions he was involved in on a seemingly daily basis.

As he steps away from what he called “the greatest mission in the world” to relish more time with his family and do some teaching and traveling, his legacy of clean water will continue on at EPA, as will his impact on the lives of people across the region.


About the Author: Tom Damm has been with EPA since 2002 and now serves as communications coordinator for the region’s Water Protection Division.

Businesses Gain by Preventing Pollution

by Mindy Lemoine

Starting down the path of an environmental management system p21can lead a business to unexpected outcomes, like an abandoned quarry being turned into a 15-million-gallon rain barrel, sixth-graders being trained to sample aquatic macroinvertebrates, and implementation of a Leak Squad at a brewery.

What does EPA have to do with these voluntary actions?  The link is EPA’s Pollution Prevention (P2) Program, which provides grants to support P2 programs in states.

Some P2 programs send experts out to businesses to identify opportunities to reduce pollution at the source.  Others, like the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality Environmental Excellence Program, identify businesses that are environmental leaders, provide training, and publicize their innovations and accomplishments.

Businesses voluntarily decide to apply to Virginia’s Environmental Excellence Program.  Each applicant commits to develop and implement an effective environmental management system (EMS).  The EMS can track environmental measures, including water use and water discharges.

Businesses also commit to the evolution of their EMS.  They usually start at the Environmental Enterprise level designed for businesses in the early stages of implementing an EMS and pollution prevention program.  Over time, many participants “level up” to the Extraordinary Environmental Enterprise level, with a fully implemented EMS, verified by an independent third party.

Businesses appreciate the regulatory fee discounts and recognition events that come with participation in the Virginia Environmental Excellence Program.  EPA is impressed with the pollution prevention results, such as reducing water usage by over 234 million gallons in 2015 from company baselines.

But could the best reward for employees of these companies be wading through a creek with a group of sixth-graders and pointing to the biggest rain-barrel in the world?


About the Author: Mindy Lemoine is the Pollution Prevention Program Coordinator in EPA Region 3. She previously worked with local governments on protecting Chesapeake Bay and Delaware River watersheds. She lives in the Tookany Creek watershed, and recently replaced her lawn with a suburban permaculture including sedges, pawpaws, and nut trees.

All Hands Needed to Control Nutrient Pollution

by Tom Damm

blue-green-algaeWhen a harmful algal bloom in western Lake Erie contaminated the Toledo area water supply two years ago, my first thoughts turned to my niece Jen and her family.

They were among the hundreds of thousands warned not to drink their water, cook with it, give it to their pets or ingest it any way after tests found the toxin, microcystin, above the standard for consumption.

Jen found out about the water ban when she turned on the TV at around 8 a.m.  By then, there were scenes of panicky residents buying out cases of water from store shelves.

Two days later the water was declared safe to drink again.  But the weekend incident served as a wake-up call for many, including members of the Toledo Rotary Club.

The 400-member club – the world’s 11th largest – is putting its considerable people power and resources behind the challenge of preventing another nutrient-driven outbreak of blue-green algae in the lake.

The club invited EPA to its signature event – the second annual Rotary Lake Erie Watershed Conference – to explain to the 300 attendees how excess nutrients – nitrogen and phosphorus – are being reduced in the Chesapeake Bay watershed.

Jon Capacasa, our EPA Mid-Atlantic Region Water Protection Division director, relayed the history and progress of the Bay partnership, emphasizing the importance of sound science and collaboration.

He reminded them that they’re not alone – that nutrient pollution is a national problem, a threat to public health, aquatic life and the economy, and to solve it we need “all hands on deck,” including civic groups.

Jon offered some websites where Rotarians and others could find projects and activities to get involved, including watershed projects, volunteer water quality monitoring, and outreach campaigns.

All 50 states have reported harmful algal blooms, and recent research suggests the problem is getting worse as a result of climate change.

Check out this site for more information and for additional ways to help reduce nutrient pollution in your area.

About the Author
: Tom Damm has been with EPA since 2002 and now serves as communications coordinator for the region’s Water Protection Division.