Increased Nitrogen Pollution from Maryland Sewage Treatment Plants

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Earlier this week I shared an article on Maryland and its lax regulations on stormwater runoff, affecting water quality in the Chesapeake. According to another article today in B’More Green (an environmental blog associated with The Baltimore Sun), Maryland has also been negligent in monitoring nitrogen pollution from its sewage treatment plants. In 2012, Maryland sewage treatment plants had a marked rise in nitrogen discharge, and many facilities violated their permits. Reasons for this significant rise in nitrogen discharge is still unclear. The article can be found here: (,0,4308987.story)

A Winter Morning in Virginia’s Northern Neck

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A Winter Morning in Virginia's Northern Neck

We spent the last weekend of the year at our house at the mouth of Antipoison Creek, in Virginia. Sunday, December 29th saw a cold rain most of the day, clearing late in the afternoon. As seen in the attached picture, Monday saw a colorful sunrise over the Bay. The ochre-colored building is Mike’s oyster house, closed up for the season while the oysters are dormant in their cages and floats. Little Bay is behind the oyster house, and the Chesapeake to the left. Except for some Canada geese and Bufflehead ducks, not much was stirring that chilly morning.

Photo and description by Gary Greenwood

Current Water Quality Issues

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Articles I’m reading this afternoon dealing with water quality issues in the watershed:

Postponing Stormwater Programs in Virginia (Richmond Times-Dispatch)

Water Quality Improving Due to Air Regulations (Bay Journal)

Maryland Counties Lax in Monitoring Stormwater Runoff (Baltimore Sun)

What’s Your Nitrogen Footprint?

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In my undergrad classes I had to do several personal carbon footprint calculations (found on the web by organizations such as the Nature Conservancy or the EPA). The footprint models were generally eye-opening in showing how much energy I consumed through daily practices, yet questions were often broad and inexact. Despite this critique I find the calculators a useful tool in allowing an individual or family to look at their activities and find where they can cut down on their greenhouse gas emissions. For these reasons I was excited to find a nitrogen calculator from the Chesapeake Bay Foundation that provided an estimate, in pounds, of how much my family and I contribute to nitrogen emissions in the Bay watershed.

CBF estimates that the average household should have a nitrogen footprint of, at most, 9.1 pounds. My household estimate was double that amount, and maybe even higher than the 20.1 pounds estimated due to values that were underrepresented in the calculator. Our property has a conventional sewer system which contributed a lot to our nitrogen output. Maybe we could look at ways to improve our system, or install other best management practices (rain gardens, rain barrels, etc) to reduce our nitrogen footprint.

Nitrogen pollution is a major issue in the Chesapeake Bay. In my opinion, not much attention is given to household contribution to this issue. I think the calculator is a good tool in raising awareness and allowing individuals and families a jumping off point for ideas on how to reduce their footprint.

The calculator can be found at the following link:

Morning Reads

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This morning I’ve been reading a few articles on climate change and how our nation will address environmental challenges in the year(s) ahead:

U.S. State Department and focus on environment:

On Geoengineering :

U.S. Climate Change goals:

U.S. 2014 Climate Action Report from the State Department:

What I’m Reading in the New Year

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I recently received a couple of books that I’ll be reading and posting more about what I learn from them. The first is Bringing Nature Home by Douglas W. Tallamy. The author writes about the benefits of native gardening and provides tips and suggestions on how to plant and maintain native plant species. The second book is William D. Nordhaus’s The Climate Casino: Risk, Uncertainty, and Economics for a Warming World. Nordhaus looks at climate change from an economic perspective.

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The Environment in Focus

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Baltimore’s NPR station, WYPR, broadcasts weekly reports on stories, often ecologically focused, on Maryland and the Chesapeake Bay. The segments,’The Environment in Focus,’ air on Wednesday mornings and afternoons. The full archive can be found online at the link below. I’m going through some of the broadcasts now and they’re pretty interesting. Go listen!