Maryland: 228,000 tonnellate in più di letame di pollo nella Baia di Chesapeake

A manure solution for the Chesapeake Bay
Washington Post, January 9
The writer is president of the Chesapeake Bay Foundation.

Agriculture is the largest source of pollution to the Chesapeake Bay and its rivers and streams. As part of the Chesapeake Clean Water Blueprint, the regional plan to restore the bay, states in the bay’s watershed pledged to reduce agricultural pollution substantially.

As if that weren’t reason enough to accelerate cleanup efforts in agriculture, here’s another: It’s far cheaper to stop pollution from farms than any other major source, including sewage plants, cars and paved landscapes.

Despite this, the Maryland poultry industry is fighting a common-sense solution that would clean up the creeks and rivers of Maryland’s Eastern Shore. University of Maryland scientists proposed the solution after 10 years of study. It’s simple: If a farmer uses chicken manure as fertilizer, he or she must apply the right amount to his or her fields. In November, Gov. Martin O’Malley (D) proposed regulations to do just that.

The Maryland Department of Agriculture estimates that about 228,000 tons of excess chicken manure are being applied per year to the fields of the Eastern Shore. It’s not intentional. Farmers use an outdated scientific tool for determining the right amount of manure, and no state regulation mandates an update. So farmers clean out their chicken houses and apply the poultry litter on nearby fields as fertilizer — at legal but excessive levels. The result of the excess manure in Maryland is glaring.

Other agricultural states, including Pennsylvania and Virginia, have updated their phosphorus limits for manure application.

The list of polluted Eastern Shore waterways is long and includes the Chester, Choptank, Transquaking, Nanticoke, Sassafras, Manokin, Pocomoke and Wicomico rivers. About 80 percent of the phosphorus pollution fouling those rivers comes from agriculture, and much of it is from excess chicken manure applied to fields. When it rains, the phosphorus washes into nearby creeks or leaches out of the fields.

Phosphorus in the water stimulates massive outbreaks of algae, starting a chain reaction that results in dead zones of low oxygen and a crippled seafood industry. Excess manure also can make Eastern Shore swimming areas unsafe.

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