Proposed rules would lead to excessive farm-related pollution and hurt state’s efforts to clean up the Chesapeake and other waterways
SHADY SIDE, MD – WATERKEEPERS Chesapeake, a coalition of 18 waterway-protection groups, is calling on the state of Maryland to strengthen nutrient-management regulations currently under consideration and make sure that the new rules are based on sound science and enforceable best-management practices.
The proposed regulations will establish rules that farmers must follow in applying manure to fields, a critical issue in preserving the quality of streams across Maryland.
“Based on the information available to us, we are concerned that the rules to be proposed will be less than those required by the Clean Water Act, less than those required to meet Maryland’s obligations under its Watershed Implementation Plan and less than those contained in a draft circulated by the Department last year,” said Bob Gallagher, Chair, Board of Directors of West/Rhode Riverkeeper, Inc., who was part of a group that has reviewed the proposed regulations. “Most importantly, they will be less than required to protect the rights of all Marylanders to clean water.”
WATERKEEPERS Chesapeake, which is working to preserve waterways in the Chesapeake and Coastal Bays watersheds, urged the strengthened regulations in this letter to Maryland Agriculture Secretary Hance.
The letter states that the proposed rules “would allow the application of amounts of manure far in excess of the needs of crops for fertilizer and would allow the unprotected storage of large quantities of manure under circumstances where normal weather conditions would be expected to wash tons of harmful nitrogen and phosphorus into our waterways.”
Excessive amounts of nutrients, especially nitrogen and phosphorous, are a major source of degradation of water quality in the state’s waterways, including the Chesapeake Bay.
The coalition called on Secretary Hance to follow the recommendations of independent scientists and adopt regulations that would :
- Bar application after October 30 statewide
- Require incorporation of manure within 24 hours of application
- Prohibit any application on phosphorus saturated soils
- Impose buffer requirements modeled after those for application of sludge
- Prohibit the application of manure in the fall to meet spring crop needs
“These protective practices are neither new nor should they be unexpected by the agriculture industry,” the letter to Secretary Hance states. “Conscientious farmers voluntarily have followed such practices for years. There has never been a serious question over whether more protective rules would become mandatory. Rather, the question has always been when they would be imposed. Further delay in these essential protections for our waterways only benefits those whose practices show less regard for our common resource at the expense of all Marylanders and, particularly, those farmers who have done their best to protect that resource.”