Chesapeake Bay cleanup in Virginia well on track but pitfalls still remain

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    Gov. Bob McDonnell announced on Friday that “significant reductions” of phosphorous and nitrogen stemming from wastewater treatment plants has put Virginia in line to reach pollution reduction goals towards cleaning the Chesapeake Bay.  

    According to Virginia’s secretary of natural resources, Doug Domenech, progress towards cleaning the Chesapeake Bay “clearly shows that a restored bay is possible.”  How Domenech defines a “restored” Chesapeake Bay remained unclear. Restored to what?

    The Chesapeake Bay Foundation, one the leading nongovernmental groups pressuring Virginia’s government to clean the bay, praised McDonnell’s “recognition of the importance of a healthy and productive Chesapeake Bay.”

    Despite the progress that has been made so far, though, the University of Maryland’s Center for Environmental Science gave the bay a D+ on a yearly report card issued in 2011. Thus, the Chesapeake Bay is clearly a ways away from the level of clean that I have in mind.

    It should also be remembered that the McDonnell administration seemed reluctant to commit to the Chesapeake Bay clean up goals set forth by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), goals which McDonnell is now boasting about having met.  

    This is all to say that while the Chesapeake Bay appears to be on the right path towards “restoration,” there are many pitfalls that could sideline the progress that has been made so far, not the least of which are political and financial snares.

    With so much at stake in the cleanup of the Chesapeake Bay, letting our guard down now would be unwise and potentially devastating insofar as reaching the bay’s cleanup goals are concerned.

    The Chesapeake Bay is more than a body of water, it is the hope of renewal after decades of malfeasance, a hope that can be transferred over to other problems such as global warming and ecological devastation, among others.