Conservation Group Plans to Sue to Force Better Cleanup in Bay

By Brian Witte
Associated Press Writer
Sunday, January 4, 2009

A conservation group plans to file a federal lawsuit in Washington tomorrow to force stronger action to clean up pollution in the Chesapeake Bay.

The lawsuit, expected to be filed in U.S. District Court by the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, claims that the Environmental Protection Agency has failed to impose strong anti-pollution measures through the Clean Water Act, as required by federal law.

The foundation hopes to call attention to the bay's problems for the incoming administration of President-elect Barack Obama (D) and the next EPA administrator, Lisa P. Jackson, former commissioner of the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection.

"I think the interesting thing is this lawsuit is going to put the restoration of the Chesapeake Bay directly on the desk of the new EPA administrator, and the decision will be whether she follows business as usual or changes course and puts the bay on the road to recovery," said William C. Baker, president of the foundation.

Baker also said he is hoping the lawsuit will call attention to scores of potential wastewater improvements in the Chesapeake Bay watershed that a federal stimulus package could help put in motion.

"What they're looking for, if I understand, is projects that create jobs across the spectrum of society," Baker said. "These projects have long-term societal benefit."

Poor water quality caused by pollution from nutrients such as nitrogen and phosphorous has harmed the blue crab population, destroyed underwater grasses and hurt bay fish in the nation's largest estuary.

The lawsuit is to be filed a week after the foundation released its report "Bad Water and the Decline of Blue Crabs in the Chesapeake Bay," which pointed to pollution and over-harvesting as primary causes of steep declines in the bay's crab population. The report concluded that a cleaner bay could revive crab populations and that strong action could improve water quality within five years.

In October, the foundation and other environmental, commercial and recreational groups gave notice of plans to sue the EPA in a 21-page notice.

Last year marked the 25th anniversary of the Chesapeake Bay Agreement, which researchers and environmental academics have declared a failure because of what they say has been a lack of political will to take action to revive the bay.

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