- The Washington Times - Sunday, May 6, 2007

ANNAPOLIS (AP) — The Chesapeake Bay Foundation says it will file an appeal today of the Environmental Protection Agency’s discharge permit for the District’s Blue Plains sewage plant, one of the largest single sources of nitrogen pollution in the Bay watershed.

The foundation argues the permit requires the plant to cut the amount of nitrogen it dumps into the watershed but does not include a schedule or deadline for the plant, run by the D.C. Water and Sewer Authority (WASA).

The EPA and WASA have discussed changing a consent decree to include a 2015 deadline, but the deadline could be delayed and the decree cannot be challenged as easily in court as a permit, said Roy Hoagland, a foundation vice president.

“If they had a compliance schedule in the permit and they fail to meet those conditions, a citizens organization could bring an enforcement action,” Mr. Hoagland said. “Under a consent decree, that is not possible. There’s no one to hold their feet to the fire.”

Foundation spokesman John Surrick said the group will file an administrative appeal of the permit. Mr. Hoagland said the appeal is the first step in a process that could lead to a court challenge.

The Chesapeake 2000 Agreement, signed by the EPA, Bay states and the District committed the parties to reducing pollution by 2010, the group said.

“Nitrogen pollution fuels algal blooms and ‘dead zones’ in the Potomac River and Chesapeake Bay,” said Jon Mueller, the foundation’s litigation director.

“Without that schedule in the permit, it is impossible to hold the EPA and WASA accountable for the pollution reduction necessary to meet the goals of the Chesapeake 2000 Agreement. The law requires that the permit contain a schedule, and it is a shame that we have to file a legal action to force EPA to do its job.”

The Blue Plains plant dumps an average of 6.3 million pounds of nitrogen each year into the Potomac River. In 2003, the EPA, Bay states and the District determined that level would have to be cut to 4.7 million pounds to meet the goal of removing the Bay from EPA’s “dirty waters” list by 2010.

Maryland took the first step in August toward improving two Baltimore-area sewage treatment plants that are major sources of nitrogen pollution in the Bay. The state Board of Public Works approved $18.6 million in grants for planning and design of improvements to the Patapsco and Back River plants, which process sewage for much of the Baltimore metropolitan region.

State officials called the plants and Blue Plains the key to reducing nitrogen in the Bay.

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