The Sun's January 11 op-ed accurately describes the Department of the Environment's focus on enforcing environmental laws that, despite resource constraints, resulted in a 34 percent increase in enforcement actions in 2008 ("Tougher policing of water quality needed"). Our annual report will soon detail an additional 7 percent increase in 2009. But while there are certainly differences of opinion, the claim that "nobody is doing anything" to clean up the Chesapeake Bay is simply incorrect.
The new two-year bay restoration milestones promoted by Maryland and now backed by the significant authority of the Environmental Protection Agency put the bay restoration within our reach. Whether we get there is up to all of us.
In Maryland, new regulations and permits to significantly improve how we control stormwater from both new and older development and to reduce nutrient runoff from poultry litter storage are at or nearing the finish line. We have kicked our septic system upgrade program into high gear. These actions follow Marylanders' commitment to fund upgrades to our largest wastewater treatment plants with state-of-the-art nutrient reduction technology -- all on schedule -- and the Healthy Air Act going live, using modern "scrubbers" to reduce nitrogen emissions from power plants 75 percent.
When it comes to cleaning up the Chesapeake Bay, enforcement is an important tool to get the job done, but it is not the only tool. State-of-the-art technologies and upgraded regulations to reduce pollution reach much farther. Enforcement makes sure those tools are fully implemented.
Let's focus on what will take us over that goal line of a clean bay. In addition to regulations and improved technologies and practices, each of us must do our part -- connecting downspouts to rain barrels, reducing paved areas, combining and reducing car trips, recycling and composting, reducing energy consumption, using less fertilizer, upgrading septic systems, and even picking up pet waste. These actions may not be glamorous, but they must all be done if we are going to save the bay.
Finally, hold your state agencies and the EPA accountable for our two-year milestones -- the key to making sure the next decade brings the bay restoration home.
Shari T. Wilson, Baltimore
The writer is secretary of the Maryland Department of the Environment.
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