MARTINSBURG - Industry leaders, government representatives and elected officials gathered Wednesday for an all-day summit to talk about what has to be done locally to meet new, strict pollution-reduction requirements for the Chesapeake Bay.
The Region 9 Chesapeake Bay Summit at the Byrd Health Sciences Center was the culmination of efforts by four work groups that have been meeting since May to help formulate Phase II of the West Virginia Watershed Implementation Plan, explained Troy Truax, vice president of Delta Development Group, a consultant firm working on Phase II of the WIP with the state Department of Environmental Protection and Region 9 Planning and Development Council.
"A Phase II objective was that there must be local involvement," he said, which is where the work groups came in.
The groups represented the three sectors - wastewater treatment plants; developed and industrial lands; and agriculture/forestry - that have been targeted by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to dramatically reduce nutrient, that is nitrogen and phosphorus, pollution and sediment pollution from getting into the Chesapeake Bay through its tributaries.
The fourth group consisted of elected officials from Berkeley, Jefferson and Morgan counties and the nine municipalities in those three counties.
Under a presidential executive order, the EPA has issued stringent new pollution limits for the six states that are in the Chesapeake Bay watershed.
The greater, eight-county Eastern Panhandle is in the Potomac River watershed, one of the bay's major tributaries.
"One of the goals of the work groups was to understand the level of effort expected to meet (pollution reductions)," Truax said. "This is a collective effort. If one sector falls short, other sectors must make up the difference."
He gave an overview of the wastewater and the developed and industrial lands work groups' efforts.
The wastewater work group, which was made up of managers of wastewater treatment plants that handle more than 400,000 gallons of sewage per day, was concerned about funding to upgrade or build new plants to meet the EPA's pollution-reduction mandates.
It has been estimated that it will cost Martinsburg about $45 million to build a new sewer treatment plant capable of meeting the new requirements. The Berkeley County Public Service Sewer District has estimated it will cost about $40,000 to upgrade its five sewer plants to meet the new pollution limits.
There also is a relatively tight timeframe in which these improvements must be made to the sewer plants: the end of 2015.
Steve Knipe, Martinsburg's utilities director, is confident the city can meet the 2015 deadline.
"We expect to let the design contract in the fall or winter and start construction in 2013, so it should be ready by 2015," he said during a break in the conference.
Berkeley County PSSD Executive Director Curtis Keller also is confident that the sewer district can meet the deadline.
"I believe we will be ready by 2015," he said during a break in the conference. "We don't have to rebuild, just add treatment capabilities, additional chemical and filtration to achieve the goals."
Knipe and Keller both said their agencies would apply for funds through the West Virginia Infrastructure and Jobs Development Council to help pay for the sewer plant improvements.
The funds were made possible by state Senate Bill 245, which was sponsored by state Sen. Herb Snyder, D-Jefferson. The bill will use surplus lottery revenues to float bonds that will cover about 40 percent of the costs for sewer plant construction.
They both said their agencies would have to ask the state Public Service Commission for rate increases to pay for the remaining costs to make sewer plant improvements required by the new pollution limits.
Without the sewer treatment improvements, the EPA could impose caps on development, Truax said.
"This is a clean water issue, but it is an economic development issue, also," he said.
Concerns of the developed and industrial lands work group, Truax said, were new stormwater management requirements for Charles Town, Ranson and Shepherdstown; EPA requirements to retrofit stormwater management projects to attain pollution control goals; and how stricter stormwater management requirements might force development out of the regulated areas and into non-regulated areas.
The agriculture/forestry work group's overview was presented by Christina Mellors of Tetra Tech Inc., the EPA's consultant working on Phase II of the WIP.
She said the agriculture/forestry work group was concerned about getting credit for management practices to reduce pollution that are already being implemented by farmers and funding sources to implement pollution-reduction management practices.
"Implementing best management practices is a huge out-of-pocket cost to farmers," Mellors said.
Dave Montali, of the West Virginia DEP, told the about 75 people who attended the summit that a draft of the state's Phase II WIP must be submitted to the EPA by Dec. 15 and the final document must be done by March 30.