So Much For Cleaning Up The Bay

This May, environmentalists hailed two developments that finally seemed to bode well for Chesapeake Bay.
The Environmental Protection Agency settled a lawsuit with activist and seafood groups to start enforcing Bay pollution rules. Also, the Obama Administration announced it would undertake a pollution survey of Bay watersheds to identify and stem pollution.
Unfortunately, the positive moves are running into a brick wall, namely Gov. Robert F. McDonnell.
He and his secretary of natural resources, Doug Domenech,are pushing back on Obama’s moves to cut pollution from farms and rainwater runoff from residential subdivisions that scientists believe lead to oxygen depleted “dead zones” and too many chemicals that lead to algal blooms.
McDonnell wrote EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson recently that “the EPA’s time and energy would be better spent in Virginia educating farmers on best practices and positive actions . . .rather than expanding thew scope of its regulatory authority through enforcement measures.”
Domenech has said in media interviews that with the economy still sputtering, now is not the time to push new regs that could stymie housing construction and forest products.
It was probably naive to think that the anti-regulation McDonnell Administration would go along with what the Chesapeake Bay Foundation has dubbed the most significant measures to improve the health of the Bay in 38 years.
After all, McDonnell is suing the EPA over regulating carbon dioxide, which is believed to contribute to global warming. As a staunch conservative, he is dead set against any expansion of government. Like his attorney general, Ken Cuccinelli, he is fond of attacking scientific approaches if they don’t fit his political views. In the case of the Bay, McDonnell is somehow finding that the EPA’s computer modelling methods are antiquated and inadequate which may be odd, since McDonnell has a legal, not a technical background.
It is also curious that McDonnell believes that Virginia’s farmers need to be “educated” about pollution. He must have in mind a quaint notion that Old Dominion agrarians still work their 40 acres with a mule. The reality is that some of the biggest polluters are gigantic corporate farm operations.
One is Smithfield Foods, which operates big hog farms that produce enormous amounts of animal waste. One such company farm was fined millions for polluting the Pagan River in the mid-1990s. And it is unlikely that Ma and Pa farms have the deep pockets to hire cooking show star Paula Dean as their pitchwoman as Smithfield Food has.
As for Domenech, it may be no surprise that he is worried about what new Bay regs might do to the forest products industry. He worked for 12 years for the Forest Research Association, an industry lobby group before moving over to the U.S. Department of the Interior during the George W. Bush Administration (not exactly a great line on a resume after the Deepwater Horizon disaster).
Some believe that McDonnell’s stone wall on efforts to avoid computer modelling to identify Bay pollution sources could lead to a break-up of the multi-state pact that has been trying to do something about Bay pollution for decades.
That would be a huge price to pay for one politician’s anti-government dogma.
Peter Galuszka

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51 responses to “So Much For Cleaning Up The Bay”

  1. Someone once said that all models are wrong, but some are useful. No oubt the Chesapeake Bay models could be improved and more needs to be done in validation, and in transparency. A model will always be suspect if it is a closed black box with hidden assumptions and controlling constants. It needs to be open source so that weaknesses and improvements can be exposed and implemented.

    The single largest source of pollution in the Bay is the Susquehanna river and most of its watershed is outside Virginia. There is nothing McDonnell can do about that.

    That said, I have worked on and delivered hay to many farms in my area over the years. I have seen runoff conditions on those farms that I like to think I would never allow on my own farm. I have seen runoff conditions that would have brought fines and stop work oprders had they occured on a construction site.

    At the same time, I look at some of those problems and recognize that to repair or prevent the condition would be impossibly expensive.

    Then there are the stories I have heard from people who had the money and tried to work with the soil conservation people.

    Finally, farms represent a huge amount of the area in the Bay watershed, but much of that area is fallow, in its natural state, or nearly so. it is unreasonable to expect the farm owners to improve on nature for the sake of everyone else, but that could very easily happen.

    In short, farm runuff is a substantial problem, but it is also a large and complex problem. If it is ever going to be solved it will need what Metro needs and high speed rail will need: a dedicated, long term program with a commitment of funds to support it.

    Farmers represent 2% of the population and it is unreasonable to expect them to fund a huge program that benefits everyone.

  2. Groveton Avatar
    Groveton

    When the computer models were used by the Bush Administration they were badly flawed:

    http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A57380-2004Jul17.html

    Now, the computer models are the voice of scientific accuracy.

    The bay pollution models should be in the public domain.

  3. I agree, they should be in the public domain.

    When they are, we will likely find that they are flawed, but not terribly so.

    When I worked on that "toxic plumes in the urban canyons" model it had an enormous number of assumptions and simplifications. It had an enormous number of calculation in it, plus a database of every building in the city.

    And yet, when we released and then monitored a nontoxic simulated pollutant, we found very good agreement with the model.

    I was, frankly, astonished that it matched so well.

    The models are not the problem though. The problem is that you have an enormous basin with an even more enormous source of inputs.

    What the regulators want to do with that is essentially defeat gravity. What the Chesapeake Bay foundation wouldlike to do is halt all further development and population growth.

    They are both kidding themselves. To the extent that they will waste resources attempting the impossible, McDonnell is right about the futility of expanding regulatory authority.

    The worst part is that they willl probably expand regulatory authority. Later, much later, the models will show how little difference that made. At which point the officials will join Larry in their dismissal of the model, but the regulatory authority will remain forever.

    Unlike controls for airplanes or power steering, or thermostats there is no effective feedback control on government.

  4. Groveton Avatar
    Groveton

    "Unlike controls for airplanes or power steering, or thermostats there is no effective feedback control on government.".

    Sure there is … it's called the Republican Party.

    FLBTWJAJ

  5. Larry G Avatar

    I had not heard that McDonnell was going to oppose implementation of the TMDLs.

    Interesting…….

    The models are flawed – because the folks in charge of them don't want them validated with actual water quality monitoring measurements and they don't want that – because what little they've done of it causes questions about the validity of the modelling results.

    Farms are a problem but farms are much fewer in number than they used to be and it's not the average, casual farm that is as much a problem as the CAFOs.

    Storm Water runoff – if you think about it – is a lot like a CAFO in that you have cleared the vegetation, make the surfaces less permeable and then throw animal and chemical wastes on the top layer and then watch the rains wash it into the creeks and the rivers… when it goes downstream until it hits the tidal zones – and then every one is "surprised" that when put put animal waste and antibiotics and and fertilizer in a blender and then dump in in the tidal area – that a 'dead zone" will result.

    I'm opposed to dumb ass things in the name of environmentalism because it does two bad things.

    1.. – the first bad thing is – it does not actually deal with the problem itself … i.e figuring out what's actually in the rivers and where it comes from and work on those identified sources.

    2. – when something is not right – the public finds out – it destroys the public's trust in the process.

    you need look no further than the global warming issue for confirmation.

    A little known part of the Clean Water Act TMDLs is going to upset the Bay cleanup applecart.

    It's called UAA..

    It stands for " use attainability analysis "

    Ray will like this a lot.

    this is what it means:

    " When attainment of water quality standards is so costly it could cause "substantial and widespread economic and social impact," EPA regulations allow the standards to be changed. In such a case, Bay water quality standards could be lowered to require fewer nutrient reductions."

    I predict that Bob McDonnell and company are going to focus on this aspect like a laser beam.

    I predict that if Bob McDonnell and company challenge the Chesapeake Bay Model to produce results that match actual conditions that we're going to see some uncomfortable defenders of it.

    let the game begin.

    and just to remind those who like labels.

    My position is NOT a liberal position NOR is it a position that aligns with the "rah rah, let's clean up the Bay zealot environmental folks".

    We have to seek the truth.

    We have to WANT to know what is actually wrong with the Bay before we can even begin to figure out what to do about it.

    When we blame the bays problems on run-of-the-mills farms.. we are not dealing with the realties.

    More crap runs into the river from NoVa than all the farms that surround NoVa… put together…

  6. Anonymous Avatar
    Anonymous

    There were proposals to adopt state-of-art storm water control measures at Tysons Corner. The landowners, who smelled New York City density and Bill Lecos from the Chamber, were singing this song.

    But then, they realized it would cost money, and the promises went away. The approved Comp Plan included nothing special for storm water management. Tysons' runoff will hit the Bay.
    I still say the overall plan is good, but storm water management is nothing special.

    Now the Democrats control the Board of Supervisors. So is this McDonnell's fault? Is it Tim Kaine's?

    Or maybe, there is not much difference in the two Parties when it comes to developers.

    TMT

  7. Larry G Avatar

    " Or maybe, there is not much difference in the two Parties when it comes to developers"

    well.. the public also.

    Richmond and other localities have tried to put together storm water authorities that will take responsibility in developing the infrastructure necessary to properly control the runoff and people raise holy hell about the taxes to do it.

    The basic problem is that without good data that actually shows the problem in the river – that people do not "own" it.

    The folks who live in NoVa do not even know the impacts of the stormwater impacts from where they live.

    As long as the water flushes from their yards and streets (when it does rain).. they are content – and clueless.

    The truth is at the Potomacs's edge – when it rains.

    The creeks that feed the Potomac are brown with contamination and flotsam… and for those who want to know.. take a boat trip down the Potomac – not down the middle at 50 mpg but along the shore at 5 mph ..and I bet if you do – you'll be just as embarrassed as I am when you see what we've done to that river.

    The shoreline (where there are not riverside homes) looks like a landfill…

  8. is no effective feedback control on government.".

    The key word being effective.

  9. Larry G Avatar

    "effective feedback mechanism"

    heck this is a no-brainer…

    The Corporates figured this out a long time ago.

    What you've got to do – is to figure out how to make cleaning up the Bay – profitable then get the Corporates to lobby for it.

  10. "Ray will like this a lot.

    this is what it means:

    " When attainment of water quality standards is so costly it could cause "substantial and widespread economic and social impact," EPA regulations allow the standards to be changed. In such a case, Bay water quality standards could be lowered to require fewer nutrient reductions."

    Actually, I don't like it. I would like to see a clean Bay as much as anyone. Cleanliness is next to Godliness and also next to impossible.

    We need to understand what it will cost and what we get back in return.

  11. Larry G Avatar

    Ray – you don't like it if a farmer or other entity can stop a TMDL by requiring a cost/benefit study first?

  12. Anonymous Avatar
    Anonymous

    Very well written column, and a message that really needs to be put 'out there' so people can know what's happening in our government …..
    'we, the people' depends on who is who

  13. Groveton Avatar
    Groveton

    "More crap runs into the river from NoVa than all the farms that surround NoVa… put together…".

    Typical LarryG…do you have any facts? Doesn't anything from, say the city of Washington run into the bay? How about Richmond? Pennsylvania? Easton, MD?

    The big problem with your agrument is that the Potomac River in Washington has been remarkably transformed. Having been born here I remember the Potomac going back to the early 60s. I have been fishing the river around Washington since the early 70s.

    How is it that all the pollution which flows from NoVa to the bay bypasses the Potomac River? And please don't blather us with false information about the Potomac. In the late 70s nobody caught anything other than catfish and white perch in the river by Washington. The water was observably filthy. People were advised not to come into contact with the water.

    Now? Yellow perch, largemouth bass, striped bass, occasional smallmouths, gar fish, even the rumor of a walleye or two upriver.

    Bio-diversity doesn't increase as a body of water gets more polluted – no matter what hocus pocus models various zealots try to use to prove that NoVa is pouring more and more pollution into the bay.

  14. Gooze Views Avatar
    Gooze Views

    vidersenGroveton is right that there has been substantial progress improving the quality of the Potomac River. I too remember what it was like whenI was a little kid, having moved to the DC area in 1956.
    The issue is that there are still big ills in the Bay, dead zones, depleted fish stocks, and oyster population hurt by disease and pollution.

    PG

  15. Larry G Avatar

    Groveton is correct. I don't know. You don't know. Who actually knows?

    What does the model say?

    What does the actual water sampling say?

    does the model accurately predict what the water samples show?

    What's changed from 30 years ago in NoVa?

    30-50 years ago there were a LOT LESS impervious surfaces in NoVa and a LOT more trees and forest and places for runoff to seep in through the ground layers rather than run off.

    30-50 years ago – there was no modern sewage treatment and raw sewage was flowing into the river.

    The Potomac today has a LOT LESS raw sewage in it and a LOT MORE Storm water runoff in it.

    the pollution does not "bypass" the Potomac.

    It is IN THE POTOMAC as if flows by but the flow slows down dramatically when it hits tidal and the pollutants keep coming downstream hitting what amounts to a watery brick wall where it stacks up.. and becomes more and more concentrated – and that is what causes the dead spots.

    Fish can move away from dead spots but other critters that are a integral part of the food web – cannot – and they die.

    this is why they are called "dead" spots.

    I'm not trying to "prove" that NoVa is putting MORE (or LESS) into the Potomac.

    What I'm telling you is that you don't know and even though you don't know – we are making decisions about how much you can put into the Potomac – without regard to it's real impacts.

    If you KNEW what the pollution levels upstream of NOVA in the Potomac were – and you KNEW what the pollution levels DOWNSTREAM of NoVa – you could start to make some intelligent judgments about the KINDS of pollution – where it likely came from – and how to start to restrict it – in cost effective ways.

    When you have a MODEL that "tells you" and you make decisions costing millions (billions) of dollars – and you really don't know if those investments are really going to deal with the problems. you're doing dumb stuff.

    So.. the Chesapeake Bay folks are saying right now – that they think that requiring farms to cut their releases will fix the problem….but if they don't then they will require the sewage treatment plants to clean up even more..

    but they really do not know because they're using a model and a model cannot tell you if your changes are working or not – only actually sampling the water can do that.

    Let me give one very simple example.

    You sample the water.

    it's got antibiotics in it.

    Where did they come from?

    did they come from the sewage treatment plant or an upstream CAFO?

    how do you figure out where they came from?

    don't you have to know that to decide whether to tell the CAFO to do something or the sewage plant to do something ?

    they don't know.

    they're using a model to make that determination instead of water quality testing that would, for instance, tell us how much antibiotic is in the Potomac ABOVE NoVa and how much BELOW Nova.

    If you don't know – how can you tell the NoVa sewage plant to invest millions/billions of dollars and after it's done..there are STILL antibiotics from upstream CAFOs in the water.

    or reverse this

    we tell the upstream CAFO to invest millions of dollars and it drives their chicken operation into bankruptcy and we still have antibiotics in the water from the NoVa sewage treatment plant.

    We have to know where the pollution is and is not before we start making very expensive decisions that will have consequences that could at the same time – be adverse financially – and STILL NOT RESULT in a less polluted river.

    and – people – the public have to understand it also – because the money from the cleanup is going to come from them.

  16. Ray – you don't like it if a farmer or other entity can stop a TMDL by requiring a cost/benefit study first?

    =================================

    The farmers job is farming.

    The governments job is to make sure that its regulations improve life / lower costs, and so the government should have an iron clad cost benefit analysis before it sets the TMDL.

    The TMDL is a measure of the carrying capacity of the environment, which we all own / share.

    The ability to use that carrying capacty should be licensed by the government with the licenses offered to the highest bidders.

    That process will likely put the farmer out of business and he should be compensated for the loss in value of his property as a result. he should be compensated because the new TMDL auction regulation was imposed for the public benefit (maximize tax revenue and best, most porfitable use of the stream) subsequent to his purchase.

    If, however he bought the land after the regs were in place, the land price would reflect his ability or inability to use that streams carrying capacity.

    Any individual, group, or organization that thinks the TMDL is set too high is free to buy capacity at the auction and hold it in reserve as a conservation measure.

    RH

  17. The basic problem is that without good data that actually shows the problem in the river – that people do not "own" it.

    ==================================

    Well, now you are catching on. If the people owned it and could sell (or keep) their share of the carrying capacity, then more people would take an interest.

    RH

  18. because the folks in charge of them don't want them validated with actual water quality monitoring measurements and they don't want that – because what little they've done of it causes questions about the validity of the modelling results.

    ================================

    What evidence have you got for that statement? I can't imagine anyone doing a model would not want it validated, or what their motive would be for opposing it.

    RH

  19. Chesapeake Bay tributary waters are tested for the following parameters – by four different labs so the analyses can be compared:

    Total Dissolved Phosphorus
    Particulate Phosphorus
    Ortho-Phosphate
    Total Phosphorus
    Total Dissolved Nitrogen
    Particulate Nitrogen
    Ammonium
    Nitrate + Nitrite
    Nitrite
    Total Suspended Solids
    Particulate Carbon
    Silica
    Chlorophyll-a

    The samples are not analyzed for toxic chemicals or pharmaceuticals, probably because those analyses are very expensive.

    RH

  20. "In Virginia, there are five fall line, 34 tidal tributary and 27 main Bay stations. The tributary stations are sampled monthly. The main Bay stations are sampled monthly September through June, and twice per month in July and August. Fall line stations are sampled twice monthly on a routine basis and intensively during high riverflow events. Water quality measurements include secchi depth, temperature, salinity, chlorophyll, dissolved oxygen, nitrogen, phosphorus, carbon and silica."

  21. You may as well forget about cleanup of pharmaceuticals; that isn't going to happen for a very long time. it's all we can do to track and understand the easy stuff like DO, conductance, and nutrients.

    RH

  22. Larry G Avatar

    " What evidence have you got for that statement? I can't imagine anyone doing a model would not want it validated, or what their motive would be for opposing it."

    Homework time.

    The Bay Journal is online and has searchable archives.

    start with the keyword "model".

  23. Larry G Avatar

    " Chesapeake Bay tributary waters are tested for the following parameters – by four different labs so the analyses can be compared:"

    show me the results for locations on the Potomac.

    Tell me where on the Potomac the nitrogen levels are the highest – and the lowest.

    Tell me if the nitrogen levels on the Potomac are higher or lower upstream of NoVa than downstream.

  24. Larry G Avatar

    Chesapeake Bay tributary waters are tested for the following parameters – by four different labs so the analyses can be compared:

    how many stations upstream of NoVa and downstream of Nova?

  25. Larry G Avatar

    " You may as well forget about cleanup of pharmaceuticals; that isn't going to happen for a very long time. it's all we can do to track and understand the easy stuff like DO, conductance, and nutrients."

    wouldn't that depend on part on the levels and where they come from?

    do we know if it is a problem with the CAFOs or with the sewage treatment plants?

    are those chemicals higher or lower below the Blue Plains outflow?

    If you don't know then how can you decide if it is a more or less urgent problem than storm water?

    What I advocate is that we know – before we decide what to do and how much to spend in doing it and how we know what we did worked or not.

  26. Larry G Avatar

    The basic problem with the Chesapeake Bay cleanup is… the almost total lack of information at the citizen level – at the same time the advocates are telling the EPA to "force" Virginia to clean up the Bay.

    "Force" means spending a lot of money on a lot of stuff – money no one has right now – and the only way to get it is to get it from the citizens.

    So when someone tells you that they want $200, $500 a year more in taxes to pay for the cleanup… what will you say?

    Will you just assume that all the money they want is what they need and that they'll spend it in cost effective ways to actually get the Bay cleaned up?

    or will you have.. questions?

    I think all of you are going to have questions.

    and right now – the Chesapeake Bay folks intend to respond to your questions with one primary answer – "the model tells us so".

    Ya'll ought not accept that answer.. in case anyone is wondering but I suspect that most of you will rightly tell them that you need more of an answer than that before they get another $500 out of your wallet.

    Unless of course you thought the money was already taken care of and what they were asking you was did you want a "clean" Bay.

    ha ha ha

    we're all smarter than that – right?

  27. Groveton Avatar
    Groveton

    "The issue is that there are still big ills in the Bay, dead zones, depleted fish stocks, and oyster population hurt by disease and pollution.".

    Absolutely. I have been boating on the bay and fishing the bay as long as I've boated and fished the Potomac.

    The Bay has definitely gotten worse.

    Which is why I stryggle to understand how the bay's wrosening condition is happening via the Potomac.

    In all of these cases, people will have to make sacrifices in order to make things better. If people can't understand the basic situation they will not agree to make sacrifices. However, if they do understand I believe they will agree to make sacrifices.

    This is as true for global climate change as it it for saving the bay. People will not make sacrifices because the high priests of academia say so. They will make sacrifices if the complex science can be distilled to some common sense ideas. I havn't see that common sense explanation with regard to the bay.

  28. http://waterdata.usgs.gov/va/nwis/qw/

    http://va.water.usgs.gov/chesbay/RIMP/generalinfo.html

    The water quality monitoring stations are all at the fall line or above because tidal flow makes source identification impossible in the lower reaches. The lowest Potomac monitoring station is in Mclean.

    Water quality in the bay is estimated by nine water quality stations at the fall lines of the nine major rivers.

    Modeling at the level Larry is talking about is not done unless it is done directly at the discharge sites.

    You can forget about pharmaceuticals and most organic chemicals. That problem is too hard and the concentrations too low. You couldn't afford to pump the water, let alone clean it.

  29. Larry G Avatar

    "http://va.water.usgs.gov/chesbay/RIMP/gene"

    these are USGS stations that are the sites designed to measure water flow…. not pollution.

    Notice that they are not EPA, not Va DEQ and not Chesapeake Bay stations.

    These are old stations that were put there long ago and the water quality monitoring is pretty generic.

    Notice also that the data collected is where?

    Can you go look to see what the nitrogen levels are before it gets to Washington and then after Washington empties their treated sewage into the river?

    if you do't know really simply stuff like this – how can you tell the Blue Plains folks to put in millions of dollars of advanced treatment to remove more nitrogen?

    Do you know Ray – what a "normal" nitrogen level in water is?
    do you know what the nitrogen level is in a healthy stream without farm or urban runoff?

    do you know what the numbers are for nitrogen in the Potomac from it's source to Washington?

    Who and where would you tell to spend money cleaning up nitrogen upstream of Washington?

    How would you agree as to where it should be done if you yourself have no clue and have no where to go look which would convince you as to where more cleanup should be done?

    You're the guy who is always saying that we need to know before we decide – right.

    do you know?

    is there a place you can go that will tell you where the pollution is right now that is higher than it should be and needs to be addressed?

    Would it be 50 miles of farms or a sewage outflow from Front Royal or storm water in Arlington?

    HOw would you make decisions about what needs to be fixed first and then next?

    Don't you think that you'd need – at the least – ACTUAL data that has actual specifics in order to make such decisions?

    Would you let someone tell you that the "model" says that Front Royal must fix up first?

    Do you think that Front Royal or Arlington or 50 farmers are going to cough up big bucks to clean up the river because some guy told them that a computer model said so?

    I don't think so.

    I think they're going to have to justify what they say – needs to be done -with real data.

    this is what the UAAs are.

    take a look here and note the date:

    http://archive.chesapeakebay.net/info/wqcriteriatech/attainability.cfm

    then click on the:

    " Chesapeake Bay Use Attainment Analysis Task Group,"

    and you'll see a "not found"

    they knew back in 2000 that they would need actual water quality data to base their decisions on…

    some of them did… but they lost to the others that believed it would be too expensive to collect the water data and instead opted for a model….

    but often, whenever actual water quality data is collected – it's not what the model predicted.

  30. Larry G Avatar

    then read this:

    " One of the biggest concerns is the accuracy of the goals. The figures stem from computer models used by the state-federal Bay Program which estimate the maximum amount of nitrogen, phosphorus and sediment that can reach the Chesapeake and still allow it to meet the water quality standards that would allow fish, underwater grasses and other resources to thrive.

    The Chesapeake Bay Watershed Model, which estimates the amount of nutrients and sediment washing off various land uses throughout the watershed, is then used to allocate nutrient limits for each major tributary and state.

    In the past, those allocations have been spread across large areas, in part because the model did not have the capability to make estimates at smaller scales. But a new version of the model offers more detailed information than was previously available. (See "Latest watershed model offers more accurate view of nutrient flows to Bay," December 2008.)

    For the first time, Bay Program officials say they can estimate the amount of nutrients and sediments originating from individual counties, although they acknowledge that the margin of error increases as the scale gets smaller.

    That's small consolation to those getting allocations. "I don't think there is a lot of comfort from the local perspective with the watershed model at the scale it works," said Chip Rice, who has been working with the Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation to "ground truth" nutrient estimates in Richmond County.

    The computer model has information about how many "best management practices" have been implemented in each county to control runoff pollution. But some practices may exist that were never reported to officials and therefore are not counted in the computer estimate. Nor does the information show whether BMPs have been maintained or-perhaps most importantly-exactly where they are located.

    On the broad scale of a 64,000-square-mile watershed, that detail is averaged out. At the local level, it can dramatically alter any estimate of nutrients being washed downstream.

    But it's difficult to determine what pollution control measures are actually in place, and where they are, Rice said. Without that information, it's also difficult to know just how many more pollution control actions can be done in a particular county.

    That effort is needed, Rice said, because farmers, local government officials and others in a county on Virginia's Northern Neck are likely to be skeptical of numbers generated by a computer model in Annapolis, MD. Otherwise, he said, a nutrient allocation can seem "pretty threatening because they don't necessarily agree with the data.""

    http://www.bayjournal.com/article.cfm?article=3562

    and you start to gain an appreciation for the scale of the problems that need to be addressed to clean up the Bay.

  31. Groveton Avatar
    Groveton

    Going back to first principles (and the original post) …

    Bob McDonnell has asked that regulations regarding bay cleanup measures be voluntary rather than mandatory.

    Why?

    Because he believes that a "best efforts" attempt to reduce pollution in the bay is what the majority of his constituents want.

    Why?

    Because people don't want to suffer economic disadvantagement by paying for efforts to help clean up the bay.

    Why?

    Because the government is not trusted. The first reaction of most people is to assume that any new regulation is either incompetent, the result of special interest lobbying or both.

    Why?

    Because government is a hopelessly ineffective communicator. Government simply can't express the logic of its actions in a way that most citizens understand. This is true in cases where there are big time special interests at play – like telecommunications regulation and places where there aren't as many big time special interests at play … like cleaning up the bay.

  32. Larry G Avatar

    so we should contract out the Chesapeake Bay Cleanup to BP?

  33. Larry G Avatar

    what's going on is that people have lost faith not only in the government but in both corporate and non-government organizations.

    Environmentalists are wackos.

    Liberals are loons.

    minorities are entitlement loving slackers

    the unemployed would rather get unemployment insurance than work.

    and the president is a marxist-loving socialist bent on righting all the wrongs done to blacks.

    America has come apart.

    I hope it's not the Humpty Dumpty disease.

    Cleaning up the Chesapeake Bay is a very wonderful idea but don't you dare even look at my wallet crossed-eyed or I'll take you out with an upper-cut.

    McDonnell will fund roads from liquor sales if you are a Conservative but in reality is playing stupid accounting tricks if you are a liberal.

    The Bay is in big trouble.

  34. Most of the water quality monitoring in the bay is generic. The toxics,pesticides,and pharmaceuticals are too expensive to even think about.

    It appears to me that Larry is mostly correct.

    There is not enough detailed information to make detailed cost and benefit decisions except at a gross level.

  35. Larry G Avatar

    " The toxics,pesticides,and pharmaceuticals are too expensive to even think about. "

    that's sort of what we have said from the very first we had a Clean Water act though.

    We are sort of at that point right now with mercury from coal burning… i.e. do we put in even more expensive technology to reduce it furter or give up and admit that the fish are all going to have too much mercury in their tissues for kids and women to eat.

    but how much sense does it make to start into a multi-billion dollar effort to "clean up the Bay" if … when you might actually achieve the goal – you find out that these other pollutants are taking away what you gained?

    Then we have the issue of – if we really cannot get antibiotics and hormones out of the waste stream into rivers – does that mean that the folks drinking water that comes from rivers are drinking them?

    That's the unfortunate truth about the environment – you can dump it in the river – but unless you are the last town before the ocean, someone else gets to drink it.

    ditto with air pollution.

    But's here's something more relevant to the original topic.

    a question:

    That Bob McDonnell think similarly about the role of Fed involvement … such as the EPA in State's business as Cuccineli does?

    Would McDonnell being intending to challenge the EPA's role in the Chesapeake Bay cleanup?

    I note in Congress right now, the basic TMDL concept as a Federal concept – delegated to the states to implement but will be taken over by the EPA is they don't implement is being challenged.

    Is it the role of the Federal Government to tell Va, Md, DC, Pennsylvania and NY to clean-up the Bay?

    Are the States Rights folks, including Cuccneli/McDonald going to challenge the basis of Federal authority in implementing the Clean Water Act via the EPA?

    If McDonnell makes the challenge on the basis that the Fed/EPA is incompetent and ineffective … by demonstrating the fallacy of "the model does not lie" approach – there is a high likelihood that McDonnell and Cuccineli will keep the EPA and the Feds at bay (pun intended) for the next 4 years.

  36. Groveton Avatar
    Groveton

    McDonnell did a good job selling his liquor store idea. In fact, it was pretty simple:

    1. In most states, the state does not own the liquor stores. They are owned by private enterprise.

    2. Selling Virginia's liquor stores (along with the right to sell liquor as a private enterprise) will bring money into Virginia.

    3. We will use the money raised by selling the liquor stores for road improvements (without increasing taxes).

    4. When this is over, Virginia will look like most other states (with liquor sold by private companies) and we'll have better roads without raising taxes.

    A simple, logical explanation which the voter – taxpayers understand.

    While cleaning up the bay is more complicated, those who support spending money to clean up the bay need to make clear, logical arguments as to why. It is wholly insufficient to say that "various computer models" prove that we should spend the money and the bay will become clean. The lack of transparency (secrecy?) around the models really, really hurt the environmental cause.

    It is incumbent on those who want a sustained effort using taxpayer money to clean up the bay to clearly explain how spending the money will not only clean up the bay but be worth what is spent.

    Some may say that the Obama Administration has made its decision. However, I believe that the Obama Administration's penchant for ramming policy down the throats of the American people with limited analysis, explanation or discusion will be the reason we have a new president in just over 2 years. And it would be a shame if that new administration lumped the bay cleanup into all the other dumb-assed ideas of the Obama Administration.

    So, if you want a sustained effort to clean up the bay you need to work to make the plan understandable to the citizen – taxpayers who will ultimately have to pay for the plan.

  37. Larry G Avatar

    well.. you're preaching to the choir on the Bay model but again way too partisan because the Chesapeake Bay folks have been around peddling this idea through at least 3 different Presidents but you guys persist in trying to pin everything you can on this one.

    which is very unfortunate because it kills your credibility on issues that are really non-partisan anyhow but ya'll insist on making even the non-partisan things – partisan.

    I would also tell you that Robb Whitman, Republican in the 1st District has submitted legislation to force the various players in the Chesapeake Bay to coordinate their effort and stop duplicating other efforts and to get on with measureable goals and objectives – something everyone should support regardless of his political stripe.

    I'm surprised on your view on the liquor deal … in that …forgetting for the moment the fact that it's not near enough the revenue stream needed …and if not mistaken the current revenues go into education…

    you failed to mentioned the idea that each locality should keep those liquor taxes for their own road needs instead of continuing the corruptive way that we now have where we turn it over to bureaucrats in Richmond.. keep a finders fee an then have unelected folks in a back room decide how much of Fairfax county's money gets sent back to them.

    just curious… were you asleep at the switch on this?

  38. Larry G Avatar

    On the other hand – McDonnell might be intending on totally dedicating the liquor money to the State level VDOT and let Fairfax be responsible for it's own roads.

    That would be perfectly consistent with the standard Republican view of personal/local responsibility and a lean/mean State Government.

    right?

  39. Anonymous Avatar
    Anonymous

    does that mean that the folks drinking water that comes from rivers are drinking them?

    ===================================

    Not necessarily. Toxics, pesticides and pharmaceuticals have specific properties which hold as long as they are intact.

    But when used or when relased to the environment they frequently break down into pieces, so you may find a third or a quarter of a molecule of cyclobenzaprine – and that partial molecule acts nothing like the parent molecule.

    For that reason you don't ordinarily analyze for each of the hundreds of pesticides and herbicides which are mostly organophosphates, but you just look for the phosphate and then make some assumptions.

    The cleanup cost curves on these things are ususally exponential. What that tells you is not that it gets more expensive as yu try to get the waste stream cleaner, it gets impossible: the costs are going stright up and you are not getting any cleaner.

    Mercury and Strontium and lead and even Dioxin have a natural background level, so if the natural background level is 2 PPB what do you gain by cleaning up your effluent to the point of .002 PPB? It is the same situation as above, in which you spend more and more money and yet the environment you live in isn't any cleaner.

    True enough, you are adding to the background at a lower rate, but at a tremendous cost.

    ==================================

    "but how much sense does it make to start into a multi-billion dollar effort to "clean up the Bay" if … when you might actually achieve the goal – you find out that these other pollutants are taking away what you gained?"

    Well, now you sound like me. You have a price priority problem which goes straight to the heart of the most basic civil rights and property rights. How much sense does it make to spend $50,000 in cleanup costs to save one life when $10,000 in some other costs would have saved two lives?

    Thats why you may as well forget about the pharmaceuticals. At the levels they exist in the water the costs of getting them out are absolutely prohibitive, not just now but forever. No amount of magic technology is going to change that cost equation. You will always have some other life saving expenditure which is more cost effective.

    And unlike Kepone, with pharmaceuticals you cannot even ban them without costing more lives than you save.

    ==================================

    "That's the unfortunate truth about the environment – you can dump it in the river – but unless you are the last town before the ocean, someone else gets to drink it."

    It is not just the rivers, it is everywhere. Everything has to go somewhere ans someone is going to have to deal with it. It cannot be stopped.

    Now, the fact that there is a toxin in the water is not a problem by itself. The problem is the probability that you will come in contact with it times the probability that the contact actually causes some harm. If you ingest one Mercury atom it may pass through or lodge in a fat glob in your river and never do any harm.

    Eventually, you will be digested and that mercury atom will go back in the environment where it lodges in a rock crevice for a thousand years and eventually reenters the food chain.

    Therefore, even if you keep the level of pollution the same, you double the risk of pollution related illness if you double the number of people. Some of what we see as an epidemic of environmental related illness is really an epidemic of people ingesting the environment.

    It does not matter whether the state or the feds try to impose the regulations: there is only one best answer that buys you the best and most effective amount of cleanup or life-saving for a given amount of money.

    Turf wars over who has the power or whether the no-mercury special interest group gets more money than the no-lead special interest group isn't helping us to find that one answer.

  40. Blogger has got glitches. last post came over anonymous instead of Hydra.

    I think I mostly agree that government has no business doing what private enterprise can do for a profit, therefore Virginia should get out of the liquor store business.

    And then I look at some of the junky liquors stores that litter some DC and Maryland places.

    Then you consider the changeover costs and how you will replace the cash flow and the idea doesn't look so hot.

  41. When this is over, Virginia will look like most other states (with liquor sold by private companies) and we'll have better roads without raising taxes.

    A simple, logical explanation which the voter – taxpayers understand.

    ================================

    If that is the message, then it is misleading.

    You won't raise enough money from the sale to make any kind of a dent in our road problem, and to the extent you do it will not be permanent.

    The revenue from the liquor stores will have to be replaced from somewhere and that will mean new, or rather, replacement taxes. Teh good part is that lquor stroe revenues tax a few and benefit many: the new taxes will likely be far more general and therefore more fair.

    Even if you replace the money lost by selling the liquor stores, it won't be enough and new, higher taxes will be needed to fix the road problem – if it is fixable. And if you look at it as a transportation issue, instead of a road issue, it looks even less fixable.

  42. It is incumbent on those who want a sustained effort using taxpayer money to clean up the bay to clearly explain how spending the money will not only clean up the bay but be worth what is spent.

    And to ensure that it is not worth a lot more to some people than is being spent by other people.

  43. Larry G Avatar

    the money from liquor sales would be instantly recognized for the smoke & mirrors game that it is – if McDonnell said each county would get back their liquor taxes and showed what each county would likely get.

    On average – I think most counties would get on the order o 2-3 million per year – for "transportation" because if not mistaken the "take" is on the order of 200-300 million a year (so you divide it by 100 to give a rough "split".

    Fairfax might get 10 million and Wise 200K… but the effect is the same.. drop in the bucket.

    Never heard Groveton or Bacon or any Republican come out and say how much money the tactic would yield…

    that's always a bad (good) sign that it's a smoke & mirrors deal.

  44. Larry G Avatar

    re: how much pollution is …..enough…..

    it's not that we all eventually turn back into dust… with bits of mercury embedded …

    it's how long we live and how sick we might be as we live that determines what are "healthy" levels of pollutants and what are note.

    and I can guarantee you that if the substance is too harmful.. it will be banned as we already have – hundreds of chemicals that meet that standard.

    If it turns out that hormones and anti-biotics are much more harmful in the waste stream than originally thought – mark my words.. we'll do something about it – as we have for other threats we originally thought were not harmful and then found out they were.

    We are undermining our public water systems because more and more people will not drink what comes out of the tap because of concerns that it might have things in it – the same things we say cause intersex fish and river kill zones… so people are buying house and sink filters and bottled water…

    Our water system is turning into something that more and more consider "not" potable – not for them or their kids.. but okay for the lawn and the dog and showers… and flowers.

    So.. the same folks who decry the enviro-wackos …are afraid to drink the tap water… eh?

  45. Larry G Avatar

    " t is incumbent on those who want a sustained effort using taxpayer money to clean up the bay to clearly explain how spending the money will not only clean up the bay but be worth what is spent."

    not if you are a left-wing loon.

    You merely start a campaign to 'force' the EPA to "force" Va to clean up the Bay using typical big govt approaches.

    There's a big irony here.

    The TMDL approach – that's Total Maximum Daily Load – is the approach being used and the basic theory is that for each pollutant that can have a "safe" number.. then it is given a TMDL limit for that watershed.

    Makes perfect sense.

    find out what is an acceptably safe concentration in the river (as oppose to pristine).. and make that the TMDL.

    Then the fun starts.

    how do you allocate it to the sources that generate it … or even more fundamental.. how do you determine the daily load at any point on the river so you know where the sources are adding to it … and what those sources are.

    So I had earlier asked how we'd know if a pollutant came from a CAFO or a sewage treatment outflow.

    and that's the problem with the TMDLs and using "models".

    You really can't properly model the sources and contributions and concentration levels as new sources add to the existing concentrations (as you move downstream).

    But that's exactly what they are going to have to do if they are challenged by UAAs.

    So.. it's going to play out this way.

    The EPA is going to tell Fairfax that the model says that their load limit is X and Fairfax is going to say ' the hell it is – you prove to me with real numbers what you are claiming – no stinking model is going to tell us to spend a billion dollars in cleanup costs".

    Then once Fairfax makes the EPA do it for them, then every single town, city, county that get's their "allocation" is going to ask for the scientific data that supports that number.

    Now.. the Chesapeake Bay folks could have anticipated this 20 years ago and got on with that work but instead they believe that they could use a model and then get legislation to "force" EPA to do this.

    In the end – I have to question those who are with that group and say they want to clean up the Bay – how serious they really were in their advocacy – if at the end of the day – it comes down to the scenario outlined above?

    Why not do the job right to start with…????

    All they are accomplishing by running to the EPA …is to create an even bigger citizen backlash against the EPA – ultimately harming the EPA itself.

    That's not a good strategy.

  46. Larry G Avatar

    Anyone else getting this blogger error:

    Google
    Error

    Request-URI Too Large

    The requested URL /comment.g… is too large to process.

  47. Antibiotics are not kepone. They will always do more good as a antibiotics than they will do harm in the waste stream. At ultra trace levels there will never be an economic way to get rid of them.

    Even if energy was free, the capital requirements would kill you. We have thousands of nuclear weapons lying around. Ultrapure water is the least of our worries. And, those who think they are getting better water in bottles are kidding themselves, and poisoning the planet to boot.

  48. TMDs will become property and be auctioned off, just like sulfur emissions or airwaves.

  49. Larry G Avatar

    I don't think you have clue what anti-biotics do or not or whether they are more harmful or less harmful than Kepone.

    If antibiotics in even small quantities have the effect of killing fish eggs or altering the ecosystem in other ways that we cannot currently conceive – we'll end up making the same pattern of mistakes that we have with other substances that we "had no idea" would cause as much harm as they did.

    Our pattern is what you keep saying – which basically is to convince yourself that your ignorance is not ignorance until proven to be so later.

    that's not a way to insure a healthy bay or for that matter any healthy environment.

    that's a way to screw up and then have to backtrack…

  50. Larry G Avatar

    TMDLs will be auctioned off.

    I actually concur that SOME kinds of TMDLs COULD but you need to take a look at some court cases and some current legislation that says that TMDLs cannot result is pollution "hot spots".

    In other words, you cannot put higher levels of pollutants in any place that already is at it's max..no matter how much money is paid.

    that idea is akin to saying that there is a price at which we allow Kepone to be dumped – but there is no price that will be enough to later removed it from the environment – and it does not bio-degrade but just further accumulates.

    no amount of money will fix that.

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