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States Improve In Decreasing Wastewater Into The Bay

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Wastewater runoff into the Chesapeake Bay has decreased, according to numbers released by two non-profits.
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Wastewater runoff into the Chesapeake Bay has decreased, according to numbers released by two non-profits.

Every two years, the Chesapeake Bay Foundation and a group called Choose Clean Water are checking to see how well actions taken by farms, cities, suburbs and wastewater treatment plants are working--whether or not they are successfully cutting the amount of nitrogen and phosphorous flowing into the Bay.

So far, the groups say, all states did better than expected in some categories and fell short in others.

Virginia appears to be doing a good job cleaning up wastewater and septic systems, while farmers have created grass buffers and restored wetlands to help clean water.

"Wetlands are nature's way of filtering, purifying and cleansing water as it runs off land," says Chuck Epes, a spokesman for the Chesapeake Bay Foundation.

Wetland soils absorb water. Wetland plants--cat tails and reeds--absorb pollution: nitrogen and phosphorous. On the other hand, efforts to control polluted runoff from cities fell short.

"Basically, every time it rains and hits pavements, streets, parking lots, and your front yard and my backyard, that water generally runs off very quickly and carries all sorts of flotsam and jetsam into our rivers and creeks," he says. "It's the one area of Bay pollution clean up that's actually getting worse, not better."

Epes says green buffer zones of native plants and trees could help. He praised the legislature for limiting the amount of nitrogen and phosphorous in lawn fertilizer, and predicted those measures would mean dramatic cuts in urban and suburban pollution in the future.

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