The county planning commission heard public comments Wednesday morning on Resolution 281 and will discuss Thursday night what actions, if any, it will take on the matter.
Resolution 281 amended Talbot County’s water and sewer plan to:
• reclassify and remap certain areas of the Lakeside/Trappe East property from W-2 to W-1 and from S-2 to S-1. (W-1 is immediate priority status for water; S-1 is immediate priority status for sewer.)
• add the Trappe East water and sewer systems to the list of capital improvement projects.
The commission’s agenda for Wednesday described the issue as “Discussion of Planning Commission’s previous certification of consistency with the Talbot County Comprehensive Plan with respect to Resolution 281 and possible recommendations and/or other actions, including undo, consider, reconsider, rescind or amend the previous certification.”
After hearing Wednesday morning from environmental groups and attorneys for a neighboring property owner, the developer, and the Town of Trappe, among others, Talbot County Planning Commission Chairman Phil “Chip” Councell asked for another meeting to be scheduled for the planning commission to consider the comments and discuss its course of action.
Councell asked for that meeting to be held before Tuesday, when the county council will hold a public hearing on Resolution 308, which would rescind adoption of Resolution 281. Resolution 308 was introduced by Council Vice President Pete Lesher, the sole council member to vote last year against Resolution 281.
Resolution 281 had been introduced Dec. 17, 2019, by Talbot County Councilmen Chuck Callahan, Frank Divilio, and Corey Pack, with public hearings held Feb. 11, 2020, and July 21, 2020.
The Talbot County Planning Commission considered the resolution in January, May, and June 2020, and voted 3-2 that an amended resolution was consistent with the comprehensive plan.
The county council voted 4-1 on Aug. 11, 2020, to approve the resolution as amended, sending the matter to the Maryland Department of the Environment for its approval, which the state agency subsequently granted. Councilwoman Laura Price joined Callahan, Divilio, and Pack in voting in favor of Resolution 281.
Earlier this year, petitioners asked the county council to rescind Resolution 281, claiming the county council and the planning commission were not provided with full information last year and noting that the discharge permit for the wastewater treatment plant that will serve Lakeside has been sent back to the state environment department for additional public comment and a public hearing.
The weather gods must have known that the greater conservation movement of the Eastern Shore was gathering on Friday night to honor Beverly and Richard Tilghman as the Horn Point Lab’s Chesapeake Champions for 2021.
With clear skies, no humidity, and 70-degree weather, over two hundred scientists, environmentalists, and patrons of the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science gathered at the Tidewater Inn courtyard on Thursday to pay tribute to the Tilghmans and their legacy of land and water conservation over the years.
And in keeping with the Tilghmans ongoing support of Horn Point Lab students and their research, several of those grad students were able to highlight their work at the Dorchester campus. Those reports were both moving and encouraging as these young leaders outlined what their projects contributed to the health of the Chesapeake Bay and beyond.
But eventually, it was the Tilghmans turn to address the crowd, and our assigned spy was able to capture Richard’s remarks at the end of a very joyful moment for the Mid-Shore.
This video is approximately three minutes in length.
Dharna Noor, writing in Gizmodo, reports that “a study conducted by scientists with the Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies and published Wednesday in the journal Environmental Science & Technology found that tens of thousands of doses of pharmaceuticals are flowing into the Chesapeake Bay every year. They include everything from over-the-counter pain medicine to prescription antidepressants.”
Researchers took weekly water samples from six sites in a Baltimore watershed for a year and sent the samples to a Swedish chemist to test for certain “pharmaceutical chemical compounds,” Noor wrote.
“The compounds fell into 9 common classes of drugs: adrenergics (prescribed for asthma and other cardiovascular and respiratory issues), antibiotics, antidepressants, antiepileptics, antifungals, antihypertensives, urologicals, and painkillers separated into two categories, non-opioid and opioid analgesics. The authors found that all of these were present in varying degrees.
“The highest concentrations they found were of non-opioid analgesics like Tylenol, Advil, and Aleve…. But the most commonly found drug in their samples were antibiotics, especially trimethoprim, which is prescribed for kidney infections and urinary tract infections.”
Read the full study here.
The struggling Chesapeake Bay restoration effort stands to get a hefty infusion of funding from the ambitious $1.2 trillion infrastructure deal reached over the weekend in the U.S. Senate.
The Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act calls for providing $238 million over the next five years to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Chesapeake Bay Program, which coordinates the state-federal restoration effort.
The Bay restoration effort is among $21 billion in environmental remediation projects that would be funded under the bill. The 2,702-page measure also includes money for physical infrastructure, such as highways, bridges, transit and rail, airports and ports, power and water systems, waterways, broadband access and electric vehicle charging stations.
Hammered out by a bipartisan group of senators, the infrastructure bill is much smaller than the $2.6 trillion plan that Biden proposed in March. Many Republicans had criticized that plan because it included funding for things not traditionally deemed as infrastructure, such as workforce training and care for the elderly and disabled.
Those are now to be included in a separate $3.5 trillion spending bill that Democrats are working on, which faces an uncertain future in the closely divided Congress.
The bipartisan infrastructure bill, which is expected to pass the Senate with the backing of Republican leaders, also slashed funding for clean energy tax credits intended to help fight climate change.
But the bill increases spending overall on environmental remediation above what Biden had proposed. It would provide funds for cleaning up abandoned mine land and Superfund sites, as well as for improving the resiliency of degraded ecosystems, such as the Great Lakes, Puget Sound and Gulf of Mexico.
The Chesapeake restoration effort also could get additional help from the bill’s proposal to boost funding nationally for water and wastewater infrastructure. Two EPA programs that provide loans to states for upgrading sewage and stormwater treatment facilities and for enhancing drinking water systems each would get an additional $14.7 billion over the next five years. That would more than double the current annual level of funding for such projects.
The Chesapeake Bay Program received $87.5 million for fiscal year 2021, and President Biden has proposed increasing that by $3 million for fiscal year 2022, which starts Oct. 1. The House has already approved that level of funding. The infrastructure measure, if passed, would boost that by roughly 50%, providing an additional $47.6 million a year.
“As we work to modernize our infrastructure and tackle climate change, it’s crucial that we’re investing in protecting our watersheds,” said Sen. Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee. “That’s why we fought to include funding for the Chesapeake Bay Program in the bipartisan infrastructure deal.”
Sen. Ben Cardin (D-MD) cited the Bay Program funding as one of the reasons he supported the infrastructure bill. “Marylanders will be pleased to see this includes funds for ecosystem restoration,” he said in a statement.
The bill’s text doesn’t say how the EPA is to use the additional money. The Bay Program typically funds research and helps assess cleanup progress, but nearly two-thirds of its money also goes to states, local governments and nonprofit groups for on-the-ground projects.
Even without such details spelled out in the bill, Bay advocates hailed the proposed funding increase. Kristin Reilly, director of the Choose Clean Water Coalition, called it “a shot in the arm” for the states and federal government, which could help them get closer to putting all needed pollution reduction practices in place by their 2025 deadline.
“While currently there is ambiguity on the exact allocation of this funding, we are heartened to see the restoration of our waterways is recognized as a national priority,” Reilly said in a statement. “This investment will not only help provide all the benefits clean water brings, but the many on-the-ground restoration projects this funding supports will also deliver good jobs and stimulate local economies.”
With just four years to go to meet the deadline of the “pollution diet” that the EPA set for the Bay in 2010, advocates and state and local officials have been urging Congress to boost funding for the restoration effort, which remains far short of many of its goals.
At least one-third of the outcomes pledged in the 2014 Chesapeake Bay Watershed Agreement are lagging badly or in limbo. An internal Bay Program review found that seven, including the key goal of meeting nutrient and sediment pollution reduction targets, are unlikely to be met by the 2025 deadline.
In May, governors of the six Bay watershed states, the mayor of the District of Columbia and the chair of the Chesapeake Bay Commission, a tri-state legislative advisory body, wrote Congress seeking an additional billion dollars for the effort. They didn’t specify how the extra money could be spent.
The Choose Clean Water Coalition, representing dozens of environmental and community groups across the six-state watershed, also wrote congressional leaders that month asking in part for a $132 million boost in Bay Program funding. It proposed distributing the increased funding in grants to states and local governments to support their restoration efforts.
By Timothy B. Wheeler
Freshwater mussels play an amazing yet little-known role in healthy rivers and streams in the Chesapeake Bay watershed. As their numbers dramatically decline we must now focus on restoring mussel populations, according to a report issued this week. The report comes from a workgroup of experts under the EPA’s Chesapeake Bay Program. It lays the groundwork for expanding mussel restoration in the Chesapeake Bay watershed with a growing coalition of advocates and scientists across the region.
About 25 species of mussels live in the freshwater rivers and streams that flow into the Chesapeake Bay. They are found across the watershed, from tidal rivers to mountain streams in Virginia, Maryland, West Virginia, New York, and Pennsylvania. A single mussel can filter up to 15 gallons of water per day, which can prevent pollutants such as nitrogen from flowing downstream, leading to clearer and cleaner water. Mussel beds create habitat for small aquatic creatures, which in turn become food for fish.
“Freshwater mussels really are unsung heroes in Chesapeake rivers and streams. But as their populations plummet, I’m afraid we could lose some mussel species before we fully understand their benefits,” said Chesapeake Bay Foundation Virginia Senior Scientist Joseph Wood, Ph. D., who is the lead author of the report.
More than half of all freshwater mussel species are now facing extinction. Mussels are threatened by pollution, dams, climate change, disease, and loss of habitat. The report estimated that mussel populations in the Chesapeake Bay watershed have likely fallen by 90 percent since European colonists arrived in the 1600s. This decline has meant a dramatic loss of both mussel biodiversity and benefits in reducing pollution. Recent research shows that some mussel species are experiencing pressures from viruses we are just learning about.
“There’s a growing enthusiasm for protecting and restoring freshwater mussel populations in the Bay watershed,” said Wood. “But to bring back mussels we need commitment, leadership, and investment.”
Restoration of a better-known Chesapeake shellfish could serve as a model for freshwater mussels. After Bay oyster populations collapsed in the late 20th century, efforts to build reefs and plant them with oysters are showing substantial promise in some Bay tributaries.
“Just like oysters in the 1980s, freshwater mussels are on the brink of catastrophe,” said Wood. “Oyster restoration experience can inspire work with mussels as well. We must ensure clean water and good habitat in key waterways, as well as stock shellfish to boost the population.”
As with oysters, successful mussel conservation and restoration depends on the growing coalition of partners in the Chesapeake watershed working on the issue, including the U.S. Fish Wildlife Service.
“Many organizations are building momentum towards propagating and restoring mussels in our region, but freshwater mussels remain in dire circumstances. The future of clean, diverse waterways depends on this work,” said Rachel Mair of the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, who leads mussel restoration efforts at Harrison Lake National Fish Hatchery in Virginia and is a co-author of the report. “Research and investment in mussels create huge benefits for rivers and streams in the Chesapeake Bay watershed.”
The fascinating life cycle of mussels begins when their larvae attach to the gills of fish for a few days or weeks. To accomplish this, some mussel species trick fish into attacking lures sprouting from between their shells. These lures, which look remarkably like bait fish, are packed with mussel larvae that fill the water when disturbed. The larger fish spread the mussel larvae to new areas.
Restoring mussel populations is challenging given the many different species and their complex life cycles. Many mussels rely on just a single species of fish to reproduce, and mussel hatcheries must raise fish to serve as hosts for breeding mussels. Fortunately, recent advances in propagation techniques are showing success at facilities such as Harrison Lake. But insufficient funding of monitoring, research, and restoration has held back efforts.
Maryland recently began several pilot restoration projects to monitor and augment mussel populations in the Bay watershed.
“We are excited to work with the private sector and non-profits along with state and federal partners on projects to improve our local populations of freshwater mussels because there is typically a limited amount of grant money available to support this type of work,” said Matt Ashton of the Maryland Department of Natural Resources. “Collaborating with these organizations allows us to promote the dual objective of conservation and water quality benefits that mussel restoration can provide.”
The Anacostia Watershed Society also has an active mussel restoration program that received a grant from Washington, D.C. However, these types of efforts need greater support.
In order to protect the health of rivers and streams, Bay states need to provide dedicated funding to survey, protect and restore mussel populations across the Chesapeake Bay watershed. A mussel restoration plan for the Chesapeake Bay watershed is an important next step.
Owen Bailey has a vision for safer, more attractive downtown street layouts originally designed as automobile-centric thoroughfares.
With the rise in pedestrian use, especially in a town with high tourist traffic, safe and attractive modifications to our streets should become a primary objective, he says.
Bailey, the Town Project Manager for Eastern Shore Land Conservancy and a member of the Chestertown Planning Commission, wants to enhance the widths of sidewalk zones at intersections and has his eye on the south end of High Street and Water Street as being a perfect pilot project.
Widening the sidewalk areas by adding “bump-outs” at its intersections narrows the width of the crosswalks, slows traffic, and enhances the town’s pedestrian appeal.
A temporary set-up using safety cones would be used to test traffic flow.
Bailey sees the intersection project as a template for other pedestrian-unfriendly areas in the community. If successful, the change can become a “cut and paste” application for other intersections in the community.
Once approved by the community, Town and State, if applicable, these cost-effective modifications could occur when the roads are next paved.
Eastern Shore Land Conservancy is comprised of avid conservationists, outdoors people, agriculturalists, environmental scientists, public servants, urban development professionals, and a variety of other stakeholders in our communities.
This video is approximately six minutes in length. For more information about For more information about ESLC, go here.
It’s hard to argue with the proposition that our communities can always use more trees. Beyond their sheer beauty, trees have provided much-needed shade during hot summers, improved the quality of our public spaces, and served as hosts for birds and other small creatures along the Eastern Shore.
Those are some reasons that local governments and small nonprofit organizations have promoted and organized efforts to plant trees for decades. But as our region starts a long and difficult war against climate change and sea levels rising, it turns out that trees can be one of the most successful defenses with global warming.
In the first place, they soak up carbon dioxide from the air like no one’s business. Their roots prevent soil erosion, and their branches provide shade that can cool our streets. The list goes on.
And that is the reason why the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, the region’s largest and oldest conservation organization, has double-downed on increasing the tree population on the Eastern Shore.
With the help of a new bill passed in Annapolis that calls for Maryland to plant 5 million trees over the next decade, CBF has joined forces with the Chesapeake Bay Trust, Maryland Department of Natural Resources, and Maryland Department of Agriculture to encourage towns, counties, and, most importantly, the farming community, to take advantage of this with a full range of incentives to make this bold goal a reality.
The Spy spoke with CBF’s Maryland Attorney, Robin Clark, the other day about the program and how critical this will be to save the Shore from the catastrophic impact of climate change.
This video is approximately six minutes in length. For more information about the Chesapeake Bay Foundation please go here.
“Is it safe to swim in the river?” is one of the most common questions ShoreRivers hears from community members. Fecal bacteria and toxic algae in waterways pose threats to both water quality and public health. People and pets who come in contact with bacteria- or toxin-laden water can contract eye, ear, and respiratory diseases; skin rashes; gastrointestinal issues; or brain or liver damage. To assess the health of our rivers and potential risks to human health, ShoreRivers’ Riverkeepers, with help from a dedicated team of volunteers, regularly monitor bacteria pollution at 34 sites throughout the middle and upper Eastern Shore.
The SwimmableShoreRivers program tests all the rivers in the ShoreRivers region for bacteria, primarily at public access locations, as well as at some marinas, yacht clubs, and town fishing piers. ShoreRivers conducts tests on a weekly basis from Memorial Day through Labor Day, and results are posted each Friday. Community members are encouraged to view the results at theswimguide.org and get updates during swim season by following the ShoreRivers and Riverkeeper pages on Facebook and Instagram. The program follows Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)’s standard protocols for collecting and analyzing samples and uses a pass/fail system to determine if bacteria levels are safe or unsafe for swimming.
ShoreRivers relies on dedicated volunteers to support their water quality testing programs. These “SwimTesters” are assigned sites and, after completing a training session, collect and deliver water samples to the ShoreRivers offices in Galena, Chestertown, and Easton. Additionally, ShoreRivers is grateful to its test site sponsors: Sailwinds Park Inc., On-site Septic Services, Caroline County Recreation and Parks, Chesapeake Designs, City of Cambridge, Town of Oxford, Corsica River Yacht Club, Kentmore Park Community, the McGunigle family, the Ruhl/Carski family, and Noa Stein, for her Bat Mitzvah project. At $600 per site, per season, contact your local Riverkeeper to learn more about sites in need of a sponsor.
The results from ShoreRivers’ monitoring in 2020 show that bacterial and algal conditions vary based on location, weather, and other factors, making systematic, scientific analysis vital. The good news is the majority of the bacteria monitoring sites passed more than 60% of the time. A few sites, however, passed less than 60% of the time, failing to meet EPA’s threshold for safe water contact. Specifically, these sites are located at Hambrooks Bay Beach, Crouse Park, Denton, Broad Cove Claiborne, and Morgan Creek Landing.
Now that the program has baseline data showing which sites frequently have elevated levels of bacteria, ShoreRivers will focus on the next most frequently asked question from the public: “Where does bacteria pollution come from at each site?” ShoreRivers is exploring partnerships and innovative technologies to help identify specific sources of bacteria pollution at specific testing locations.
“Once we know where the bacteria is coming from—whether it’s leaking sewer lines, failing septic systems, over-application of fertilizer, or people not picking up after their pets—we can start implementing real solutions,” says Choptank Riverkeeper Matt Pluta. “Monitoring techniques such as eDNA sampling and bacteria source tracking are improving and becoming more reliable. It’s another tool in our Riverkeeper toolbelt to help improve water quality conditions so Eastern Shore waterways are always safe and swimmable.”
The SwimmableShoreRivers program also works with government health agencies at local and state levels to monitor toxic algal blooms and inform the public of serious potential health risks to humans and pets. Algal blooms occur naturally, but increased levels of nutrient pollution in our waterways from fertilizers, septic systems, and wastewater plants fuel larger, more toxic, and longer-lasting blooms.
In our region, toxic blooms occur most frequently on the Sassafras River, due to its lower salinity levels. Last summer, a toxic algal bloom on the Sassafras lasted for almost three months. This was the largest, longest lasting, and most toxic bloom ever recorded on the river, causing the Maryland Department of the Environment to issue a water contact advisory for the whole river.
Already in 2021, small blooms have been identified in tributaries of the Sassafras. Sassafras Riverkeeper Zack Kelleher has responded to and tested these blooms with the help of Maryland’s Department of Natural Resources, and will continue to monitor the water weekly as the summer progresses. For more info on Sassafras algal blooms this summer, contact email@example.com.
Annie Richards is the Chester Riverkeeper for ShoreRivers
In March, ShoreRivers and the owners and operators of The Point at Pintail came to a settlement agreement requiring the sporting clay course and shooting range in Queenstown, Maryland, to address lead shot that has accumulated to toxic levels in surrounding soils, threatening the health of people and wildlife. While shooting has taken place at this gun club for over 30 years, evidence shows that between 2013 and 2019 alone, 171 tons of lead were discharged at shooting stations around the site, resulting in dangerous lead accumulation in the soil, ditches, and ponds that drain directly to the Wye River. After years of negotiations, the final settlement agreement requires The Point at Pintail to address existing lead deposits, implement practices to regularly reclaim future lead debris, and conduct regular water and soil sampling to ensure no further lead pollution of the site.
Lead is highly toxic; exposure to even small amounts can result in severe neurological, developmental, and reproductive issues in humans and wildlife, particularly in children and birds. For these reasons, it has been banned from use as a gasoline additive, in paints, and in certain other applications. However, while lead-based shot was banned in waterfowl hunting nationwide in 1991, it remains in use in upland game hunting and in trap and skeet shooting sports. At shooting ranges specifically, spent lead shot can accumulate to toxic levels in soil and water unless proper reclamation protocols are in place.
According to Michael McLaughlin, the hazardous waste expert who evaluated the samples taken in 2020 from The Point at Pintail, “. . . the concentrations of lead found at several areas of the gun club present a threat to human health. Those potentially at risk include gun club visitors and staff who can ingest or inhale lead dust.” Additionally, “. . . the ecological risk presented by the lead contamination in soil and sediment at the gun club is substantial.”
The Point at Pintail sits directly on the banks of the main stem of the Wye River just south of Queenstown. In 2015, ShoreRivers entered into informal discussions with the owners about partnering to remediate the lead pollution on site. ShoreRivers also alerted the Maryland Department of the Environment (MDE) and the Queen Anne’s County Health Department. In 2017, after two years of inaction by The Point at Pintail, MDE, and the health department, ShoreRivers filed a Notice of Intent to Sue, and ultimately filed a lawsuit, under the Clean Water Act and under the Resource Recovery and Conservation Act, alleging that The Point at Pintail had failed to protect human and environmental health from lead poisoning as required by law.
The settlement is still undergoing federal agency review, but under the settlement agreement reached in March, The Point at Pintail is required to reclaim or treat with a bonding agent the legacy lead in specific, high-concentration areas; close or re-orient existing shooting stations to prevent lead debris from being deposited in wetlands or ditches; conduct lead reclamation on a regular schedule based on the number of targets thrown to prevent further accumulation; and conduct soil and water sampling at least annually to monitor lead levels and share results with ShoreRivers and MDE to ensure actions are meeting environmental standards.
Isabel Hardesty, executive director of ShoreRivers, states, “We are pleased with the outcome of this settlement and believe these actions will improve water quality while also reducing potential human health risks. Many hunters and sport shooters are conservation-minded, and I urge these communities to look at this as an opportunity for improvement. Can we do more to protect against the damages of lead shot, or further curtail its use by switching to steel or other non-toxic alternatives, in order to protect our shared environment? ShoreRivers welcomes the opportunity to work with the sport shooting community in these endeavors.”
ShoreRivers sincerely thanks the following people and companies for their donated time and expertise in this case: attorneys Kevin Holewinski and Daniella Einik with Jones Day; environmental engineer and lead expert Michael McLaughlin with SCS Engineers; and lead expert Sarah Stoneking with Ramboll US Consulting, Inc. Their significant contributions made this positive outcome possible.