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Jan. 22, 2021 by Katlyn Schmitt

Maryland Considers Bills to Protect Public, Environmental Health

The Maryland General Assembly is back in session — and we at the Center for Progressive Reform are tracking a number of bills that, if passed, will have a lasting impact on the people of Maryland and their environment. Several could also spur other states to improve their own environmental and public health protections.

We’re watching bills that would:

  • Ensure clean drinking water

    Everyone needs and deserves safe drinking water. Yet well owners in Maryland are largely left on their own to ensure their water is safe. Some 2 million Marylanders rely on well water as their primary water source, yet many well owners incorrectly believe their well water is safe to drink. Many don’t test their water annually or understand the importance of doing so.

    The Maryland Private Well Safety Program would address these problems. This would help well owners cover the costs of testing and remediation when unsafe contamination levels are found. The bill would also require the state to create an online database of well water test results and better monitor and report on its groundwater resources, and it would require property owners to disclose test results to tenants and homebuyers.

  • Provide greater accountability to ensure …

Dec. 10, 2020 by Katlyn Schmitt
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Ever since the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issued a dangerous (and now-rescinded) policy relaxing enforcement of environmental protections in March, the Center for Progressive Reform has watchdogged responses from state environmental agencies in three states in the Chesapeake Bay Region — Maryland, Virginia, and Pennsylvania.

While the EPA essentially gave companies a free pass to hide pollution violations during the pandemic, most states set up processes to handle COVID-19-related noncompliance. Environmental agencies in Maryland, Virginia, and Pennsylvania received dozens of waiver requests related to water, land, and air quality protections, pollution controls, sampling and monitoring, inspections, and critical infrastructure deadlines.

A majority of these requests were related to the pandemic. But others, such as those seeking to delay important deadlines for construction projects, were not. This suggests that some polluters are using COVID-19 as an excuse to subvert or delay deadlines that prevent further air or …

Oct. 21, 2020 by Darya Minovi, Katlyn Schmitt
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Dangerous nitrate pollution has contaminated the groundwater that supplies private drinking water wells and public water utilities in several agricultural regions across the United States, posing a significant threat to people's health. A new report from the Center for Progressive Reform (CPR) indicates that this problem has reached Maryland's Lower Eastern Shore, an area that's home to hundreds of concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs) and millions of chickens.

Nitrates are a compound formed when nitrogen, largely from manure and fertilizer, breaks down. When manure is overapplied or mismanaged, rainfall or irrigation can cause nitrates to trickle down through soil into groundwater resources. Tainted Tap: Nitrate Pollution, Factory Farms, and Drinking Water in Maryland and Beyond notes that a single poultry CAFO raising 82,000 laying hens can produce 2,800 tons of manure a year, more than three times the amount produced by the Maryland Zoo in …

Sept. 3, 2020 by Katlyn Schmitt
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In the absence of meaningful action by the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), more than a dozen states, including Virginia, have issued emergency safety measures to protect essential workers from the risks of COVID-19. But Maryland – home to one of the largest poultry industries in the nation – is glaringly absent from that list.

We’ve seen dramatic changes in response to the coronavirus in the transportation, retail, and restaurant industries, but behind the closed doors at poultry plants, workers face dire health risks while continuing to labor in fear of contracting COVID-19.

Prior to the pandemic, workers in the poultry industry faced some fairly egregious working conditions. Inside plants, workers labor side-by-side while as many as 175 birds whizz by every minute for "processing." Painful repetitive stress injuries and cuts due to increased line speeds are all too common at these processing facilities. Reports …

Aug. 5, 2020 by Darya Minovi, Katlyn Schmitt
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In July, the Maryland Department of Environment (MDE) released the findings of a new ambient air quality monitoring project focused on the state’s Lower Eastern Shore. This effort was announced more than a year ago as a partnership between the Delmarva Poultry Industry (DPI), a trade group for just what it sounds like, and MDE to monitor ammonia and particulate matter emissions from industrial poultry operations.

The number of registered poultry CAFOs, or concentrated animal feeding operations, in Maryland has increased from seven in 2009 to 544 today, and the vast majority are located on the state’s Lower Eastern Shore. For years, residents have complained of foul odors emanating from nearby CAFOs, in addition to nausea, eye and throat irritation, and respiratory ailments. These symptoms are consistent with exposure to high levels of ammonia — a compound emitted when chicken litter breaks down, making it a …

Aug. 3, 2020 by Matt Shudtz, Brian Gumm
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Based on its current projected path, Tropical Storm Isaias could bring heavy rains up and down the East Coast, from the Carolinas and Virginia to the Delmarva Peninsula, Pennsylvania, and New Jersey. Along the way, the storm could swamp industrial facilities, coal ash ponds, concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs), and more.

From Hurricane Florence to Hurricane Harvey and beyond, in the past 15 years, we've seen numerous tropical storms flood unprepared facilities. This has caused significant infrastructure damage and unleashed toxic floodwaters into nearby communities and waterways, threatening public health and making residents sick.

While no one can predict the exact path of any given storm, we do know the importance of preparing for extreme weather and adapting to the climate crisis. For resources on this issue, you can review CPR's report on toxic floodwaters in Virginia, our paper on toxic floodwaters and public health, and our …

June 18, 2020 by Darya Minovi
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A blog post published last month by the Chesapeake Bay Program, a collaborative partnership focused on Bay restoration, addressed the many ways that the climate crisis will affect farms in the region. Data from the program shows temperatures on Maryland’s Lower Eastern Shore, home to a high concentration of industrial poultry farms, increased between 2 to 2.5 degrees Fahrenheit, on average, between 1901 and 2017. By 2080, temperatures in the Chesapeake Bay watershed are projected to increase by 4.5 to 10 degrees, posing a serious risk of heat stress to farmworkers and livestock.

As the post discusses, rising temperatures can hurt farms in several ways. Warmer temperatures make for a longer growing season, which may temporarily promote higher crop yields but can also stress water resources and result in additional fertilizer application, which is not what the doctor ordered for the Bay’s nutrient …

March 12, 2020 by Darya Minovi
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On March 4, I joined community members and advocates from Assateague Coastal Trust, Center for a Livable Future, Environmental Integrity Project, Food and Water Watch, and NAACP to testify in favor of Maryland's House Bill 1312. The bill, introduced by Delegate Vaughn Stewart (D-Montgomery County), would place a moratorium on permits for new or expanding concentrated animal feed operations (CAFOs) in the state. The legislation would apply to "industrial poultry operations," defined as operations that produce 300,000 or more broiler chickens per year. It was introduced with strong support from community members and environmental and public health advocates hoping to pump the brakes on the seemingly unmitigated growth of poultry CAFOs, especially on the Eastern Shore.

The environmental and public health harms from CAFOs are nothing new to Eastern Shore residents. As stated in CPR's testimony, the expansion of CAFOs on the Delmarva Peninsula is …

Nov. 15, 2019 by David Flores
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David Flores co-authored this post with Kathy Phillips, the Assateague Coastkeeper, an on-the-water advocate who patrols and protects the Maryland and northern Virginia Eastern Shore coastal bays and stands up to polluters.

Last month, former CPR policy analyst Evan Isaacson wrote in this space about Maryland's proposal to revise and reissue its Clean Water Act pollution permit for concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs). He made a convincing case that those who love the Bay need to advocate for effective and enforceable CAFO regulations.

Traditionally, air pollution permits have been and will continue to be a critical component of climate policy in the United States, controlling emissions of greenhouse gas pollutants. But strong water pollution standards, including permits, are also a vital tool in addressing climate change because they are so important to state efforts to adapt.

Maryland's CAFO permit is what's described as a "general permit" because …

Oct. 17, 2019 by Evan Isaacson
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The many thousands of people in the Mid-Atlantic region who care deeply about restoring the Chesapeake Bay tend to be pretty knowledgeable about the causes of the Bay's woes and even some of the key policy solutions for restoring it to health. These concerned citizens may even be familiar with the term "TMDL," a legal concept within the Clean Water Act that is probably completely foreign to most of the rest of the country. But what even the most committed Bay advocates may not be aware of is that a TMDL (short for "Total Maximum Daily Load") is merely a plan, not an enforceable document, and certainly not a self-activating solution to the Bay's problems.

The key to giving effect to the Bay TMDL and the entire Chesapeake restoration framework lies in the mechanics of the Clean Water Act. Quite simply, the TMDL sets an overall …

CPR HOMEPAGE
More on CPR's Work & Scholars.
May 3, 2021

Maryland Must Take Stronger Steps to Regulate Toxic Stormwater from Industrial Sites to Protect Marylanders and their Waterways

April 20, 2021

The Promise of Environmental Justice Screening Tools in Maryland and Beyond

April 13, 2021

Maryland Adopts Law to Ensure Safe Drinking Water for Tenants

March 22, 2021

Maryland Court Orders State to Limit Ammonia Pollution from Industrial Poultry Operations

March 1, 2021

Achieving Meaningful Accountability for Polluters in Maryland

Feb. 25, 2021

Clean Water Is a Human Right. Let’s Start Treating It Like One.

Feb. 16, 2021

Maryland Should Prevent Flood Loss on Public and Private Land