Maryland Update

MD_ A 'no fish factory' sign outside a house in the Town of Federalsburg Credit- Andrew Metcalf - CBF_1171x593

A no fish factory sign sits outside a house in the Town of Federalsburg, Maryland in opposition to a proposed permit by AquaCon that would discharge millions of gallons of wastewater daily into the fragile Marshyhope Creek.

Andrew Metcalf/CBF Staff

From the Desk of Josh Kurtz

Winter 2022

Advocacy Pays Off in Permit Disputes

Partnership was the theme for CBF’s Maryland Office in its recent string of victories on Maryland’s Eastern Shore.

CBF worked closely with local residents, concerned scientists, and other environmental organizations to publicly oppose a proposed discharge permit that would have enabled the Norwegian company AquaCon to discharge up to 2.3 million gallons of wastewater per day into fragile Marshyhope Creek for a salmon production factory.

The work paid off in October with AquaCon announcing that they would withdraw their request for the permit. The advocacy campaign focused on the threat to endangered Atlantic sturgeon and the overall health of local waterways. The effort got a big boost when elected officials in Federalsburg questioned Maryland Department of the Environment (MDE) about why the permit was moving forward given the publicly identified risks. Scientists such as University of Maryland’s David Secor, who identified how the huge discharge could harm the endangered sturgeon population, and several advocacy groups, including ShoreRivers, were integral to the effort.

Also in late October, MDE issued a revised permit for the massive Lakeside at Trappe development outside of Easton, following massive outcry from local residents and organizations around the draft permit. The new permit significantly reduces the amount of treated wastewater the developer can spray over farm fields. Previously, Lakeside was seeking to spray about 540,000 gallons of treated wastewater per day, but MDE cut that to 100,000 gallons. MDE also included additional measures to help prevent pollutants remaining in the wastewater from running off the spray fields and polluting local waterways.

By reducing the permitted discharge, the development is limited to building 400 homes, compared to the 2,500 that were initially proposed. Through litigaton and hundreds of critical comments to MDE’s initial permit, residents and environmental groups were the key to this review. Despite the changes, CBF remains concerned about how MDE is permitting the method of irrigating fields with wastewater and is continuing to evaluate potential ways to challenge this permit and others.

Litigation Secures Settlement Against Long-Time Polluter Valley Proteins

Elsewhere on the Eastern Shore, CBF’s litigation team worked closely with ShoreRivers and Dorchester Citizens for Planned Growth to hammer out a settlement in a lawsuit brought against Valley Proteins for pollution violations at its Linkwood chicken rendering plant. The settlement resulted in fines against Valley Proteins totaling nearly $1 million as well as court enforceable mandates for the company to correct long standing wastewater storage and odor issues. CBF and other environmental organizations had been urging MDE for years to force the Linkwood facility to meet its pollution permit limits, which the plant had been routinely violating. Pollution from the facility had been linked to several water quality problems in the area including harmful algal blooms.

CBF Urges Caution After New Rockfish Survey

For the fourth consecutive year, Maryland’s juvenile rockfish survey showed population numbers remained below average. The updated survey is particularly concerning since the Bay, and Maryland in particular, is where about 70 to 90 percent of the coastwide rockfish, or striped bass, population spawns. This shows, again, that the species is struggling to re-establish itself, despite additional conservation measures put in place in Virginia and Maryland during the previous two years. In response, CBF is urging coastwide fishery managers to use caution and consider additional measures to help protect the species. “[W]e cannot ignore this troubling trend of continued low productivity,” said CBF’s Maryland Senior Fisheries Scientist Allison Colden. “Low oxygen dead zones and high water temperatures render much of the Chesapeake Bay unsuitable for striped bass in the summer, limiting habitat and stressing young fish. We must continue making progress on reducing pollution entering Chesapeake Bay. Striped bass and the fisheries they support depend on it.”

—Josh Kurtz
Maryland Executive Director
Chesapeake Bay Foundation

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