In 2003, CBF released a report entitled "Sewage Treatment Plants: The Chesapeake Bay Watershed's Second Largest Source of Nitrogen Pollution." We found that there were then 304 "significant" wastewater treatment plants in the watershed, which discharged 1.5 billion gallons of wastewater each day. These plants contributed about 52 million pounds of nitrogen pollution annually to the Bay and its tributaries. At that time, even though technologies to treat nitrogen pollution in sewage had been created in the 1980s, more than two-thirds of the treatment plants in the region did not use any technology to remove nitrogen pollution, and only ten plants were reducing nitrogen pollution to state-of-the-art levels.
As a result of the Maryland Flush Fee, passed in 2004, the state created a dedicated fund to modernize its municipal wastewater treatment plants. Since then, 23 have been upgraded to what is called an Enhanced Nutrient Removal (ENR) standard. This means that there is no more than 4 milligram per liter of total nitrogen in the effluent, and the state estimates that 646,000 fewer pounds of nitrogen pollution enters state waters annually.
The wastewater treatment plant in Easton is a particularly good study. And since 2007, it's been cutting edge, providing enormous benefits to the city's well being and the Bay.
Last year the Easton plant discharged less than 17,000 pounds of nitrogen into its neighboring creek—a 73,000-pound annual reduction from before the 2007 ENR upgrade. Phosphorous pollution from the plant was reduced in similar proportions.
In 2008, in recognition, the Administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's mid-Atlantic Region presented the Town of Easton and Easton Utilities with its regional award for excellence in the operation and maintenance of the town's wastewater treatment plant.