Statement of Senator Paul S. Sarbanes
Hearing before the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works Subcommittee on Fisheries, Wildlife and Water
Thank you, Mr. Chairman, for this opportunity to testify on S. 1044, the Chesapeake Bay Watershed Nutrient Removal Assistance Act. At the very outset, I want to commend you, and other members of the Committee, for focusing attention on our nation's clean water infrastructure needs. This issue is of vital importance to the State of Maryland and to our continued efforts to restore the Chesapeake Bay.
Despite improvements over the past two decades, Maryland and, indeed, the Chesapeake Bay region still face very significant water quality problems and needs. In December 2001, a "Task Force on Upgrading Sewerage Systems," commissioned by Governor Parris Glendening completed an assessment of the costs to implement needed sewerage requirements to address combined sewer overflows (CSOs), sanitary sewer overflows (SSOs), and other upgrades at wastewater treatment plants throughout Maryland and identified $4.3 billion of capital needs. Maryland's most recent allotment under the Clean Water Act's State Revolving Loan Fund was $32.5 million, and even when combined with State and local funds, the Task Force report estimates a gap of $80 - $140 million a Year in needed sewerage infrastructure spending. Clearly, continuing and enhancing the State Revolving Loan Fund is a vital part of the assistance needed to help address that gap.
But I am concerned about using just the needs survey to determine state apportionments for the SRF, as proposed is S. 1961. The survey was designed for traditional sewer needs and does not account very accurately for restoration, reconstruction, storm water and non-point source control needs, which are difficult to quantify. Moreover, it unfairly penalizes states, like Maryland, which have worked aggressively to upgrade sewage treatment facilities - utilizing State funds and overmatching federal revolving loan funds. In addition, it fails to measure very well the overall water quality challenge a state or region faces. In my judgment, the ultimate formula for the SRF should have a broader water quality measure in it -- some factor related to the percent of waters not meeting designated uses or water quality standards. I hope that the Committee will work with us to address these deficiencies in the needs survey, which is being used as the basis for the new formulas in S. 1961.
In the Chesapeake Bay watershed, we face a special challenge of finding ways to further reduce the level of nitrogen and phosphorus in wastewater effluent. Nutrient over-enrichment from both point and non-point sources remains the most serious and ubiquitous pollution problem facing the Chesapeake Bay. In 1987, the Governors of Maryland, Virginia, Pennsylvania, the Chesapeake Bay Commission, the Mayor of the District of Columbia and the Administrator of the EPA, on behalf of the Federal government, signed a Chesapeake Bay Agreement which set a goal of a 40 percent reduction of nitrogen and phosphorous loads to the main stem of the Bay by the year 2000 -- the most ambitious voluntary commitment for restoring water quality of any region in the Nation. During that 13 year period, tremendous efforts and investments were rnade by all the jurisdictions in upgrading sewage treatment plants as well as implementing Best Management Practices on agricultural lands to meet that goal.
Two years ago, the States and the Federal government conducted an extensive evaluation of cleanup progress since the 1980s and determined that, unfortunately, we have fallen short of the 40% goal. Estimates through the use of computer models indicated that, although nitrogen loads delivered to the Bay and all its tributaries declined by nearly 53 million lbs/year and phosphorus loads declined nearly 7 million lbs/year, Bay-wide nitrogen loads fell about 21 million lbs/year short and phosphorus loads fell nearly 3 million lbs/year shy of the 2000 goal. A new Chesapeake 2000 agreement was signed reaffirming the 40 percent nutrient reduction goal agreed to in 1987, and committing the signatories to go much further by correcting all nutrient related problems in the Chesapeake Bay by the year 2010. But, without Federal funds for wastewater treatment plant upgrades, the States will be unlikely to meet the 2010 water quality goal.
Recent modeling of EPA's Bay Program has found that total nutrient pollution must be further reduced by more than 45% from current levels to restore the Chesapeake Bay and its major tributaries to health. To do so, the current annual nitrogen discharge of 285 million pounds will need to be cut by at least 130 million pounds. Municipal wastewater treatment plants, in particular, can be a ;major source of these needed reductions.
As you can see from this map, there are approximately 300 major wastewater treatment plants in the Chesapeake Bay watershed. These plants contribute about 60 million pounds of nitrogen per year, more than one-fifth, of the total load of nitrogen to the Bay. Typically, these plants discharge about 18 mg/liter of nitrogen in their effluent but 71 of the plants have been upgraded with some form of nutrient removal technology to achieve nitrogen concentrations of about 8 mg/liter. By further upgrading these plants with nutrient removal technologies to achieve nitrogen reductions of 3 mg/liter - state-of-the-art reductions - scientists estimate that we would remove 42 million pounds of nitrogen in the Bay each year or about 40 percent of the total nitrogen reductions needed.
The legislation which Senators Mikulski, Warner, Allen, Specter, Santorum and I sponsored would establish a grants program to encourage states and municipalities in the six-state Chesapeake Bay watershed to go the extra mile and install nutrient reduction technologies at major wastewater treatment facilities to achieve state-of-the-art nitrogen reductions of 3 mg/liter. Our legislation would provide grants for 55% of the capital cost of upgrading the plants. The total cost of these upgrades is estimated at $1.2 billion, with a federal share of $660 rnillion. Any publicly owned wastewater treatment plant which has a permitted design capacity to treat an annual average of 0.5 million gallons per day within the Chesapeake Bay watershed portion of New York, Pennsylvania, Maryland, West Virginia, Delaware, Virginia and the District of Columbia would be eligible to receive these grants. These nutrient reduction technologies are the most reliable, immediate and cost-effective ways to reduce nutrient loads to the Chesapeake Bay.
Mr. Chairman, if we are to achieve the ultimate, long-term goal of the Bay Program -- improving and protecting the water quality and living resources of the Chesapeake Bay -- federal assistance in upgrading sewage treatment plants and in this nutrient reduction effort is absolutely essential. The States cannot do it alone, particularly given the interstate nature of the pollution problem facing the Chesapeake Bay. The Bay is a unique national resource. It is the largest and most productive estuary in the country, with a watershed encompassing 64,000 square miles and parts of six states and the District of Columbia. Its unique ecological features combine with its tremendous economic and cultural importance to make it a resource that deserves national protection. I hope that the Committee can act quickly to approve this measure and report it to the full Senate for consideration.