OUR MISSION: MANAGED GROWTH
"To protect the unique environment and heritage of Talbot County --- its waterways, farmland and historic small towns."
Printed in the Baltimore Sun
By Wenonah Hauter and Julie Gouldener
12:00 a.m. EST, March 7, 2014
We have taxed nearly every Marylander to pay for significant nutrient removal at wastewater treatment plants through the Chesapeake Bay Restoration Fee, known as the flush tax, amounting to $60 per year for each household. Gov. Martin O'Malley also supported the so-called "rain tax" to manage urban storm water pollution. But when it comes to agriculture, the polluter-pays concept is discarded, and agriculture is instead offered hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars to do what it ought to be already doing to reduce pollution runoff. Why is Governor O'Malley giving the bay's biggest polluters a free ride on the backs of taxpayers and their own contract growers and farmers?
Last month, the governor threatened to veto the Poultry Fair Share Act, which would stop the free ride the chicken industry currently enjoys. The legislation calls for a 5-cent per bird fee on any Maryland company that places chickens with contract growers. The tax would be used to plant cover crops to soak up the excess pollutants from the millions of pounds of chicken manure dumped on farmland. Currently, there are four major poultry companies located on the state's Eastern Shore that own over 300 million birds that contribute to the billion and a half pounds of chicken manure every year on the Delmarva Peninsula. Isn't it time to stop the massive pollution caused by the chicken industry and other intensive agricultural operations and make them pay their fair share?
Here in the Chesapeake Bay region, millions of pounds of nutrients and millions of tons of sediment pour off of farmland each year with devastating impacts to the bay. These pollutants cause dead zones, fish kills and human and fish diseases, and they destroy oyster farms.
Maryland agriculture covers nearly 25 percent of the landmass feeding into the bay and contributes more runoff pollution to the bay than any other source. Growing crops such as corn and soybeans requires huge amounts of nitrogen fertilizer, along with phosphorus. The crops do not use all of these nutrients, and much of what is not taken up winds up in our creeks and streams or seeps into groundwater where it can contaminate drinking water and end up in the bay. When you add millions of pounds of nitrogen- and phosphorus-laden chicken manure to farmland, the problem is exacerbated. The Delmarva Peninsula has some of the greatest concentrations of broiler chickens in the country, and corn and other grains must be grown to feed them.
The withdrawal in November by the O'Malley Administration of science-based regulations to prevent farmers from dumping phosphorus- and nitrogen-laden chicken and other manures on farm fields already saturated with phosphorus is another example of the political capture of our elected officials.
A recent Baltimore Sun article documented that more than four years after Maryland first moved to regulate its largest poultry and livestock operations, nearly 30 percent, or 169 operations, still do not have required state permits mandating measures to control polluted runoff. Those that do are not properly inspected, and enforcement lags. These are the largest poultry and other animal manure producers in the state and some of the largest in the country.
In a recent Sun op-ed, law Professor Rena Steinzor wrote that Maryland's environmental agency waived more than $400,000 in legally mandated fees in 2013 for 540 farms — industrial-style chicken farms mostly — giving them a free ride despite these farms producing 650 million pounds of manure annually. This fee has not been collected since it was instituted four years ago, even though the Maryland Department of the Environment states that it does not have sufficient personnel and funds to process or enforce regulations as required.
It's time for the free ride for polluting factory farms to end in Maryland. Governor O'Malley should be standing up for taxpayers, the bay and Maryland contract growers — not the chicken industry.
Wenonah Hauter is executive director of Food & Water Watch in Washington D.C. Julie Gouldener is the Maryland organizer of Food & Water Watch. Their emails are email@example.com and Jgouldener@fwwatch.org.
Sustainable Lawns-The Backyard Revolution - a Speaker at Atkins in October
Sustainable Lawns—The Backyard Revolution
Wednesday, October 9, 2013 5:30 pm - 7:30 pm
Description: Want to make a positive impact on our environmental future? The place to start is in your own back (or front) yard. Lawns occupy almost 50,000 square miles of the U.S. landscape—an area larger than the state of Pennsylvania. As presently cultivated, many are resource hogs and major polluters. Yet in just a few weeks, with a modest investment of time and materials, you can turn that eco-villain into a sustainable, easy-to-maintain expanse that gives back far more than it takes and is beautiful as well.
With new statewide restrictions on lawn fertilizer use going in to effect this October to help achieve Bay restoration goals, now is the perfect time to learn how to reduce fertilizer use and protect water quality while keeping your lawn productive and healthy. Tom Christopher, founder of Smart Lawn LLC, will discuss the different grass mixes and techniques he is using to create locally adapted, biodiverse lawns that need only three to four mowings per year, no summertime irrigation, and little or no fertilization. In addition, he will provide contacts for locally focused advice and information that will enable concerned homeowners to create their own sustainable lawns. Your lawn can reduce your carbon footprint, assist in preventing water pollution, and provide a new opportunity for landscape color—and it’s easy, once you know how.
Tom Christopher is a graduate of the New York Botanical Garden School of Professional Horticulture. He has helped institutional and residential clients enhance their landscapes for more than 40 years. He is the author of ten books about gardening, and served as editor and a contributor to The New American Landscape, Timber Press’s guide to sustainable gardening that was hailed by the American Society of Landscape Architects as one of the 10 best books of 2011. His work with lawns has been featured in The Chicago Tribune and in Horticulture magazine.
This program is offered in partnership with Midshore Riverkeeper Conservancy and the Chesapeake Bay Foundation. It will be held at the Academy Art Museum in Easton.
The program is free. Advance registration is requested.
Letter to the Editor
In a mid-July hearing with the Talbot County Council, officials from University of Maryland Medical System (UMMS) and Shore Health System, now wholly owned by UMMS, went to great length to explain that the reason for a new “rolling delay” in construction of the long-planned regional hospital in Easton was necessitated by a lack of funding. That hospital was to cost $283M. Surprisingly then, just a week after that explanation, the Washington Post carried an announcement that UMMS plans to invest $645M to build a new hospital in Prince George’s County.
It would appear that the UMMS lamentation to the county council was somewhere between misleading and disingenuous. The more likely explanation for choosing to build on the Western Shore rather than in Easton are one, reimbursement rates are higher there and two, UMMS faces competition on the Western Shore whereas, having purchased Dorchester General Hospital, Chester River Hospital and Memorial Hospital in Easton, they have a monopoly here.
The charade has gone on too long. We get the picture. No new hospital on the now-captive Middle Eastern Shore. Alright. OK. But have enough courage and character to say so. Then effectively manage the hospitals purchased here. Make the long-needed investments in equipment and infrastructure. Pay our doctors enough so they don’t bolt at the first job offer. And try being forthright for goodness sake.
Letter to the Editor
Eastern Shore residents interested in understanding the poor condition of water in the Chesapeake Bay should read the May 2013 National Geographic article titled “Our Fertilized World.” The article documents the shockingly contaminated state of surface water here and abroad and clearly explains why those conditions exist.
The culprit, long understood, documented in countless reports and identified yet again in this article, is excess fertilizer applied to fields and lawns. Once on the ground and unused by the intended crop, fertilizer migrates overland and through ground water to surface water. There, it stimulates growth of a super abundance of algae, clouding the water and consuming oxygen, resulting in the poor health and death of marine creatures and threatening the health of humans.
Each summer excess agricultural fertilizer turns the Chesapeake Bay and the creeks and rivers of the Eastern Shore into an algal stew. But these waters belong to us all. No other business or industry has been or would be allowed to discharge contaminants that have such an obvious and calamitous impact on the natural environment and on the property of others. Thus far, our elected representatives, local, state and federal, have lacked the courage to address this socially irresponsible and dangerous abuse. The National Geographic article, combined with resultant citizen awareness, finally may move them to do their jobs, to stand up and actually lead. Please read it, in print or on line.
Violations of the Clean Water Act on Kent Island
In light of what we've found (and what we're seeking through the FOIA) the BPW should take the responsible approach and pause on any Khov request relating to a Four Seasons wetlands license.
The KHov pattern of violations of the Clean Water Act should be troubling to anyone concerned about the waters of the Chesapeake Bay and Chester River.
Feel free to call with any questions. (See more below)
Queen Anne's Conservation Association
POB 157, Centreville, MD 21657
For Immediate Release June 3, 2013
FOUR SEASONS DEVELOPER’S STORM WATER VIOLATIONS PROBED BY CONSERVATION GROUP
(Also see the attached PDF, "QACA FOIA Requested EPA May 2013 Final with Exhibits")
The Queen Anne’s Conservation Association (QACA) today filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) seeking records relating to storm water discharges from construction sites of Hovnanian Enterprises, Inc. in violation of the federal Clean Water Act.
Hovnanian is seeking to develop, on Kent Island in Queen Anne’s County, the largest residential project (1,079 units) ever constructed in Maryland’s Critical Area. The QACA FOIA filing, to which EPA is obligated to respond in twenty working days, seeks further information about Hovnanian's record of compliance with EPA regulations, with specific reference to the following occurrences:
In 2010, Hovnanian agreed to pay a $1 million civil penalty to resolve alleged Clean Water Act violations at 591 construction sites in 18 states and the District of Columbia. 161 of these sites were within the Chesapeake Bay Watershed. Hovnanian pledged to implement a company-wide storm water compliance program at existing and future construction sites around the country. See http://www.epa.gov/compliance/resources/cases/ civil/cwa/hovnanian.html ; http://yosemite.epa.gov/opa/admpress.nsf/ d0cf6618525a9efb85257359003fb69d/1015486c1ef7a0ca8525770b00665d50!OpenDocument
The EPA described the 2010 action against Hovnanian as its #1 civil case of the year based on amount of pollutants potentially reduced, and its #1 civil sediment pollution case for the period 2003-2010 (and the #7 case for all kinds of pollution), with an estimated 366 million pounds of sediment pollution reduced as a result of the enforcement action. See http://www.epa.gov/compliance/ resources/reports/nets/nets.pdf [enter “Hovnanian” in the search box and click 3 times on Find Next]; http://www.epa.gov/compliance/resources/reports/nets/ nets-j3-toppoundsreducedsince06.pdf.
Notwithstanding the 2010 action, only a year later an EPA inspection of two Hovnanian sites in Prince Georges County, Maryland (Palisades at Oak Creek and Shipley Farm) found violations that ultimately resulted in a new assessment against Hovnanian of further penalties of $130,000. See http://yosemite.epa.gov/ opa/admpress.nsf/0/7625F14D264560B285257B2600764688
In 2012, according to a Hovnanian Securities and Exchange Commission filing, the EPA assessed penalties of $120,000 for the company’s failure to meet the requirements of the compliance program mandated by the 2010 decree.
QACA Executive Director Jay Falstad stated: “Hovnanian wants to engage over a period of years in ongoing, massive construction activities that will remove vegetation, alter topography, and otherwise disturb hundreds of acres in the Critical Area on Kent Island – all with the potential of contributing significant quantities of sediment-laden runoff. The Chesapeake Bay Program tells us that excess sediment is a leading factor in the Chesapeake Bay’s poor health. It is therefore critical that, as State and local officials -- and the public -- make their decisions about stewardship of the Chesapeake Bay, they understand the Hovnanian track record.”
Falstad continued: “Right now, however, it looks like all of us not at the federal level have been in the dark on the issue of how carefully or carelessly Hovnanian handles sediment run-off during construction. What we do know is that EPA has found what it calls ‘a pattern of violations’ at numerous Hovnanian construction sites, going back at least as far as 2003, and we know that there have been further violations since 2010. What we don’t have, but intend to get, is a full and complete picture of these violations – what they involved and what the risks are if they are repeated.”
QACA’s FOIA request is being handled by the Washington, DC environmental law firm of Meyer, Glitzenstein & Crystal, which represented QACA in the citizens’ successful fight against a huge federal security training facility, with explosives ranges and high-speed driving tracks, proposed for Ruthsburg in the rural heart of Queen Anne’s County. See http://www.meyerglitz.com/cases/ case-pages/queen-annes-conservation-assoc-v-dept-of-State.html Attached: Freedom of Information Act Request for Records Related to Hovnanian Enterprises, Inc., June 3, 2013 Contact: Jay Falstad, 410-739-6570; firstname.lastname@example.org
Unneeded fertilizer pollutes Bay
From the Star Democrat "Letters to the Editor" Wednesday, May 15, 2013
Every spring when daffodils bloom and baseballs start flying through the air, television viewers are bombarded with commercials urging us to get up off our sofas and fertilize our lawns. Then, every year without fail, by the time All-Star break comes around or we harvest our first tomato, our newspapers report algae blooms in the Bay and lament that Bay waters are still sick.
The two subjects, lawn fertilization and algae blooms, are directly related. Although some nitrogen in lawn fertilizer is taken up by grass, some isn't. Instead, through either surface water runoff or via groundwater transport, some of the applied nitrogen gets into the Bay. Once there it stimulates the growth of algae, clouding the water and depleting its oxygen. Approximately 20 million pounds of nitrogen fertilizer is applied annually to Maryland lawns. If we know there's too much nitrogen in the Bay, why are we needlessly introducing more into the environment?
It is frustrating because, despite what various pitchmen say, our lawns receive sufficient nitrogen from rainfall and decomposing grass clippings. They will do fine without the application of additional nitrogen.
At least try not fertilizing your lawn for a year. Remember that it is normal for a lawn to go dormant in midsummer heat, but it will come back to life in the fall. You will save time and money, and you will have the satisfaction of having done the right thing for our rivers and Bay. TOM HUGHES, Easton
Bay Submerged Aquatic Vegetation Plunges to 1985 Levels
By Bay Journal on May 06, 2013 11:39 am
The amount of underwater grasses in the Chesapeake plunged 44 percent over the last three years, leaving the Bay with its lowest coverage of the crucial plants since 1986 — about the time cleanup efforts began.
Aerial survey data from 2012 show that submerged aquatic vegetation, or SAV, acreage dropped 21 percent from the previous ... Read more
We firmly support the principles of “Smart Growth” endorsed by the last four Maryland governors. We work in partnership with other community organizations, inside and outside our county, to encourage adherence to those principles by monitoring the enforcement of ordinances that support managed growth. Because land-use decisions are controlled by elected and appointed officials atthe local level, we help to elect and support public officials who endorse smart growth principles.
To read more about Talbot Preservation Alliance, visit our About Us page
If these values are important to you, we would love to add you to our number.Please contact us at email@example.com