When U.S. Sen. Ben Cardin (D-MD) stopped by the Feb. 11 meeting of the Anne Arundel County delegation, he discussed a number of issues with the state delegates, including Chesapeake Bay clean-up.
Delegates in the room seemed to have one prevailing question on their mind: “how do we pay for it?”
But, as of Feb. 10, that question got $13 million dollars easier to answer.
The day before Cardin met with the county delegation, the Maryland Board of Public Works announced that Anne Arundel County would be receiving $13 million in grant money for upgrades to the Annapolis Water Reclamation Facility.
The wastewater treatment plant, which handles 13 million gallons per day, will get a facelift by way of upgraded Enhanced Nutrient Removal (ENR) facilities, which will be designed to reduce the amount of pollutants discharged from the facility.
The nitrogen and phosphorus discharged from the plant makes its way into estuaries of the Chesapeake Bay, contributing to pollution levels in the water.
However, after the upgrades are completed, nitrogen discharge levels are estimated to be lowered by 62.5 percent, and phosphorus discharge levels will go down by almost 80 percent, according to a release from the Board of Public Works.
While this grant didn’t come up in conversation between Cardin and the delegates, the U.S. senator addressed the concerns of Del. Bob Costa (R-District 33B), who said he was worried the bay’s “pollution diet” would impose undue regulation that would end up hurting localities the most.
However, Cardin branded the new requirements, which will regulate how much pollution can legally enter the bay, not as mere federal regulation, but a joint effort between localities, states, and the federal Environmental Protection Agency.
“The TMDL (Total Maximum Daily Load) was an enforcement effort in order to meet the Clean Water Act requirements,” Cardin said.
Cardin reminded the delegation that “each state got to make a game plan,” referring to the fact that each state drafted a separate Watershed Implementation Plan (WIP) to individualize the clean-up effort. Each WIP is included in the final TMDL.
“That’s federalism right there,” Cardin said. “We didn’t decide for the states, we let them choose their path.”
With funding a primary concern for local delegates, Cardin also said there would be an influx of federal money for localities—if he’s able to pass the Chesapeake Clean Water Act this year. The measure, which is aimed at helping in bay clean-up efforts, fizzled in the lame-duck session of last year’s congress due to a Republican filibuster.
“My legislation would provide over $1.5 billion in funds for stormwater management,” he said.
However, the senator told Patch he remains optimistic about the bill’s prospects in 2011.
“We succeeded last year in hitting the sweet spot in that we were able to get great support within our (Senate) committee,” Cardin said. “We had run the minefields, despite some opposition.”
But, he did concede that getting authorization bills of any kind through the new Congress is going to be difficult.
“In the new Congress, the challenges are going to be different,” he said. “It’s whether we can get any new authorization bills through, let alone the Chesapeake Bay, and I don’t know what the attitude is going to be in the House.”
While the bill’s path to passage in the 112th Congress hasn’t quite materialized, the senator said he believes the issue is fairly well received by lawmakers on the Hill.
“I think the subject itself will still be considered popular, therefore, if we can get any legislation moving in this area, I’m hopeful that I’ll be able to attach the bay (bill) to it,” Cardin said.