WASHINGTON – Maryland Gov. Parris Glendening told a congressional subcommittee Tuesday that it is time to change the focus of the Clean Water Act from pipeline pollution to “non-point” pollution sources, like runoff.
Glendening, speaking for the National Governors Association, where he is chairman of a committee on natural resources, urged the federal government to”continue funding programs that work well,” citing the environmental successes since the Clean Water Act took effect in 1972.
But he told the House Subcommittee on Water Resources and Environment that it is time to redirect cleanup efforts.
The greatest source of water pollution is no longer sewage treatment plants or pipes dumping directly into the water, he said in a statement, but runoff from urban streets and parking lots and from farms, particularly large-scale “factory” animal farms.
“Part of our message is that clean water should no longer just be considered what we call `point-source’ … it must now be about land use and how we control what happens on the land,” Glendening said before his testimony.
Committee staffers said that since its inception in 1972, the Clean Water Act has directed about $70 billion to reducing “point-source” pollution, while less than $5 billion on non-point pollution sources.
Glendening’s testimony pointed to Pfiesteria piscicida — a toxic microbe cited in several fish kills that led the governor to order some rivers closed in 1997 — as an example of the dangers of non-point pollution.
Pfiesteria outbreaks appear to be triggered by high levels of nutrients in the water. Scientists suspect that those nutrients could come from fertilizers and animal wastes that run off of farm fields.
But while he urged an increase in funding for non-point pollution, Glendening’s statement also called for continued funding of programs such as the State Clean Water Revolving Loan Fund. It allocates federal funds for clean-water projects, but gives states some leeway in how the money is spent. Maryland, for example, uses the fund to help local governments pay their share of nutrient reduction projects in wastewater treatment plants.
Glendening credited the Clean Water Act with improving water quality across the country, and held up the Chesapeake Bay as a success. But he said in his prepared text that “serious water quality problems” remain. He noted that 36 percent of surveyed stream miles and 38 percent of lakes and bays nationwide do not meet clean water standards.
He said that watershed cleanup efforts should be federally funded and based on standards set by the Environmental Protection Agency, but that the states should be left to run the programs.
“I urge you to take the lead in designing a new generation of innovative, smarter, faster and more flexible tools for financing projects to solve the nation’s water pollution problems,” he said in his prepared text.
Rep. Wayne Gilchrest, R-Kennedyville, who introduced Glendening, agreed that solving water pollution is more complex than capping a pipeline.
“We’re all getting a little closer to getting an understanding of watershed management,” he said.