Four hearings have been scheduled for next month in Virginia to solicit public comment on the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s plans for establishing a total maximum daily load, or TMDL, that would cap nutrient and sediment runoff from any source into the Chesapeake Bay.



The hearings will be held Dec. 14 at Falls Church High School in Fairfax County, Dec. 15 at 2007 Legacy Hall in Williamsburg, Dec. 16 at Spotswood High School in Rockingham County and Dec. 17 at the Wingate Inn in Fredericksburg. Each will begin at 6:30 p.m. and conclude at 8:30 p.m.



The EPA has likened the TMDL to putting the Bay on a “pollution diet.” It would be the largest and most complex U.S. TMDL developed, involving six states and the District of Columbia.

Virginia Farm Bureau Federation, the state’s largest farmers’ advocacy organization, is encouraging its producer members to attend the hearings or submit comment to the EPA in writing. Farm Bureau contends that plans for the TMDL are based on a faulty model that blames agriculture for more than 50 percent of pollution in the Bay, but does not take into account best management practices farmers have voluntarily put in place to protect water quality.



“Our members realize what a tremendous and fragile resource the Chesapeake Bay is, and their livelihoods are tied to water and water quality,” noted Wilmer Stoneman, VFBF associate director of governmental relations. “But we have serious concerns about the proposed TMDL undertaking. At this time there is no comprehensive reporting system to track all of the voluntary practices that Virginia farmers have put in place already to protect the Bay and other waterways. To begin mandating new practices without that information is egregiously short-sighted.”



Also critical, Stoneman said, is some assurance that TMDLs be based on peer-reviewed, science-based information; account for projected population growth; assess wildlife impact on water quality; and consider an offset trading system. “And, as we have maintained for years, there needs to be adequate cost-share funding available at both the state and federal levels before new mandated regulations are put on Virginia’s farmers.”



In addition to participating in the public hearings, citizens can submit comments to the EPA in writing by Dec. 18 via e-mail to sincock.jennifer@epa.gov or by mailing them to Jennifer Sincock, Environmental Scientist, Water Protection Division (3WP30), U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Region III, 1650 Arch St., Philadelphia, Penn. 19103-2029.