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Wastewater, Runoff from Stormwater, Agriculture Slow Chesapeake Bay Cleanup

AP Photo / Julio Cortez, File

Virginians are heading to the Chesapeake Bay and its tributaries for a break from the COVID-19 pandemic – fishing, kayaking, and swimming. Throughout the summer pollution closes access to some of those waters. The Chesapeake Bay Foundation took a critical look at whether Virginia is meeting pollution reduction goals.

Virginia, Maryland and Pennsylvania are responsible for roughly 90% of the pollution in the Chesapeake Bay. The big three sources - wastewater and stormwater runoff from neighborhoods and agriculture. Virginia is on track to reduce pollution from wastewater treatment plants, but it remains a problem in the James and York Rivers.

“We see our best progress in the wastewater sector in the Shenandoah, Potomac watershed,” says CBF Virginia Executive Director Peggy Sanner.

Along with wastewater, more frequent heavy rains are washing pollution from new urban and suburban areas into waterways, offsetting any progress made in existing cities and neighborhoods.

And as the pandemic has wrecked the economy, CBF is pushing for the General Assembly, which meets next week, to remain committed to clean water.

“We have economic benefits, quality of life benefits when we have investments in all of our water quality programs," Sanner explains. "So funding will be really important.”

Virginia is also looking over its shoulder at New York and Pennsylvania, which have not met their water quality goals.

This report, provided by Virginia Public Radio, was made possible with support from the Virginia Education Association.