The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is finally doing some enforcement work to reduce pollution in the Chesapeake Bay. The EPA has told poultry farmers on Maryland's Eastern Shore that they must now apply for a permit if any of their manure is running off into local waterways.
The federal requirements are even stiffer than what Maryland state officials have proposed. Poultry growers will be required to submit comprehensive reports on how they handle and store the manure produced by their flocks, and list how much they're using as fertilizer on crops and what precautions they're taking to keep it from getting into nearby streams.
The federal regulations also could require many to change their farming practices. The rules sharply restrict the amount of time they can stockpile manure in their fields before working it into the soil and require them to leave much larger swaths of land uncultivated along drainage ditches and waterways.
Agriculture is the largest source of the nutrients degrading the bay's water quality, with runoff of manure and chemical fertilizers responsible for 42 percent of the nitrogen and 46 percent of the phosphorus. Nitrogen and phosphorus runoff each summer results in huge "dead zones" in the bay where fish and other wildlife are unable to survive because of algae blooms that deplete the water's oxygen.
Go here for a full report in the Baltimore Sun.