Thursday, April 3, 2008

Virginia's pollution - how is it measuring up?

Air Quality
Virginia is holding levels down, but has not reduced total emissions. While emissions per unit of economic activity in the state continue to fall for many pollutants, strong eco growth at the same time potentially erodes any gains in air quality that tighter emission controls might achieve.

Virginia is within the federal limits on air quality for all pollutants except for ozone in Northern Virginia. Starting in 1998, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency began using a more stringent standard for ozone performance. Since that time, Virginia has significantly reduced the number of days when the ozone standard was exceeded, from 235 days per year on average between 1997 and 1999 to an average 51.7 days between 2005 and 2007. Northern Virginia, with an average of 38.7 days exceeding the ozone standard between 2005 and 2007, had the poorest air quality. In 2006, Virginia had 56 days where the air quality was considered unhealthy for people with asthma and lung disease, a part of the population that is most sensitive to changes in air quality.

Water Quality

The Chesapeake Bay is a particularly important water resource for the state. While Virginia has agreed to reduce its contribution to the nitrogen and phosphorous loads in the bay by substantial amounts by 2010, progress toward this goal has been slow. The pace of the cleanup should, however, improve as point source regulations are fully implemented, non-point source funding increases, and targeting of best management practices expands.

Likewise, the number of impaired waterways throughout the Commonwealth that have been restored is slowly increasing. Since some waterways have impairments not under state control, improvements in these waterways may be measured as incremental improvements rather than as a shift from impaired status to unimpaired or restored status.

Superfund sites

1 comment:

Peter Maier said...

While farmers are getting blamed for their pollution (CAFO’s and agricultural runoff), cities still are allowed to dump the same pollution (nutrients) in our open waters, since EPA still allows cities to use open waters as urinals, in spite of the fact that the goal of the Clean water Act was to eliminate (100% treatment) all water pollution by 1985.

The reason? Simple, but also very embarrassing!
EPA, like the rest of the world, used an essential pollution test incorrect and the pollution (now called nutrients) caused by nitrogenous (urine and protein) waste was and still is ignored. Nitrogenous (urine and proteins) waste like fecal waste exerts an oxygen demand, but in all its forms is a nutrient (fertilizer) for algae and aquatic plants, causing eutrophication and ultimately 'dead zones'.

In 1984 EPA acknowledge the problems with this test, but in stead of correcting this test (so we finally would be able to evaluate the true performance of such facilities and determine what their effluent waste loading on open waters would be), EPA allowed an alternative test and officially lowered the goal of the CWA from 100% treatment to a measly 35% treatment, without even informing Congress, as apparently the media also did not understand what was going on.

But who cares, this is a technical issue and for that you have to trust the experts, who clearly in this case prefer the status quo. If you like to know more you can visit my website and in the Technical PDF section read a description of the BOD test and the consequences if you apply the test as still is applied.

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