Chesapeake Bay TMDL

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According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) website(, “A Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) calculates the maximum amount of a pollutant that a body of water can receive while still meeting water quality standards.” The multi-faceted Chesapeake Bay TMDL is the first of its kind in the country, and the details of its implementation are still being worked out years after its release. Being the guinea pig of such a large-scale TMDL implementation, similar models are expected in the future for the Albemarle-Pamlico drainage basin in southern Virginia and North Carolina, as well as for the Mississippi River basin, which includes a majority of the continental United States. Multiple industries contribute nitrogen, phosphorus, and sediment loads to the Chesapeake Bay, which necessitates a far-reaching approach to the problem.

Virginia is responsible for milestone reporting to the EPA in two-year intervals. This process will allow the EPA to closely monitor the commonwealth’s progress toward clean-up goals. Virginia’s milestones for 2012-2013 include a host of initiatives designed to stem the accumulation of nutrients and sediment in the Chesapeake Bay. While permitted wastewater dischargers can expect more stringent permit conditions associated with point source discharges, Virginia is also aggressively addressing non-point pollution sources, such as agricultural and urban stormwater runoff. Erosion and sedimentation from new and redevelopment sites is of particular concern to regulators, as it directly contributes to sediment loads and plays a large part in phosphorus accumulation. As a result, it is expected that Virginia authorities will enhance enforcement and compliance inspections of construction sites to help ensure that adequate erosion and sediment (E & S) controls are implemented.

While regulations governing E & S controls have been a way of life for development projects for decades, enforcement has been limited by regulatory resources. It now seems likely that special attention will be paid to enhancing these resources, requiring the industry to become much more diligent in this regard. It’s also likely that a proportional relationship will exist between the number of compliance inspections conducted and the number of citations and amount of fines levied. For the foreseeable future, greater attention to enforcement of E & S regulations will help lessen unexpected costs and disruptions.