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Chesapeake Bay Foundation urges York County to reduce pollution

Alyssa Jackson
  • CBF identified five priority counties that need to reduce their agricultural pollution.
  • Counties that were the top priorities generated the most nitrogen pollution in the Susquehanna Basin.
  • Lancaster, York, Franklin, Cumberland and Adams counties contribute 30 million pounds of nitrogen pollution each year.

The Chesapeake Bay Foundation has called on five Pennsylvania counties, including York, to accelerate pollution reduction.

CBF would like the Pennsylvania government and the U.S. Department of Agriculture to focus additional funds to help the counties reduce pollution.

According to a news release from the foundation, CBF analyzed federal data to identify the counties that account for more than 30 million pounds per year of nitrogen pollution from agriculture to the Chesapeake Bay. Lancaster County delivers the most nitrogen pollution from agriculture, followed by York, Franklin, Cumberland and Adams counties.

York County comes in second on that list, with more than 250,000 acres in agriculture and more than 2,000 farms averaging about 120 acres in size. The report done by the CBF estimates that 6.54 millions of pounds of nitrogen pollution from agriculture is generated in the county each year.

“While other bay states are making progress in achieving their Clean Water Blueprint pollution-reduction goals, Pennsylvania is far behind in meeting its commitments,” said CBF President William Baker in a news release. “By increasing efforts in these five counties and using the most effective conservation practices, the commonwealth can efficiently and cost-effectively jump-start its lagging cleanup efforts.”

The Susquehanna River is shown looking north from Safe Harbor Dam.

CBF is calling on federal partners, especially the USDA, to commit $20 million in new funds with a focus on the five priority counties. The foundation also is encouraging state and local governments to provide additional funding and assistance.

Initiatives: Practices that would reduce the nitrogen pollution produced by these counties, such as streamside buffers, would also reduce phosphorous and sediment, which can degrade local streams and rivers, harm aquatic life and cause risks to human health and drinking water, according to the release. Harry Campbell, CBF's Pennsylvania executive director, stressed in an interview that the funds requested would go toward furthering a lot of the initiatives already started in York County and would improve the county as a whole.

Campbell said that measures such as streamside buffers and checking the quality of farm soil improve the quality of local streams and rivers, which have a trickle-down effect on the Chesapeake Bay. Improving local waterways also can improve the quality of locally grown food and livestock, can improve the health of the communities in York County and can improve the economy by creating jobs, he said.

"This is about expanding the good work that has been done in the areas already," Campbell said. "Other counties still need to do their fair share of work, but to rapidly get us back on track, we think an investment in these areas will do the most good in the shortest period of time and with the least amount of money."

Farmers: The CBF said that many Pennsylvania farmers are in favor of installing conservation practices but are unable to do so because of a lack of funds or resources.

For example, Tim and Frances Sauder, two dairy farmers from Lancaster County, have applied for state and federal funding to install a streamside buffer, add manure storage and a composting facility and address polluted runoff that occurs with heavy rains.

"We made decisions on how we farm in order to protect the watershed," Tim Sauder said.

The CBF estimates that if the five priority counties fully meet their 2025 Blueprint pollution-reduction commitments, the state would see approximately 14.1 million pounds of nitrogen pollution reduction. The Chesapeake Bay Executive Council will meet Oct. 4 to identify restoration challenges.

The news release from the CBF says that if Pennsylvania meets its commitments, economic analysis found it would increase natural benefits in the state by $6.2 billion annually through cleaner water and air, hurricane and flood protection, improved recreational activities and more.

“There is a growing consensus that Pennsylvania must prioritize its efforts, and this analysis provides a road map to do just that,” Baker said in the release. “When bay leaders gather in October, we expect them to take real action to reduce nitrogen pollution in Lancaster and other key Pennsylvania counties. If Pennsylvania does not meet its commitments, bay restoration efforts will fail.”