Cape Gazette
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Positive Growth Alliance responds to letter

By Rich Collins | Dec 26, 2013

A recent letter to the editor of this paper is symptomatic of what is wrong with the current state of today’s environmental movement. Some people apparently feel we shouldn’t be allowed to look at actual facts to determine if an environmental regulation makes sense. Indeed, there seems to be a contingent who believe that those who don’t pay proper homage to their “green” religion must be condemned.

In this case, several Delaware state legislators were pilloried because they dared to try and persuade the Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control to delay implementation of new septic system and stormwater regulations. It seems they feel these new rules will harm the economy and kill jobs while doing virtually nothing to benefit the environment.

The Positive Growth Alliance is fully supportive of continuing to clean up the Inland Bays. First, however, it’s time to acknowledge the tremendous progress we’ve already made. Why should people continue to support ever more intrusive regulations, at ever increasing cost, when so many of the so-called “experts” refuse to admit we’ve made any gains at all?

It is critical that additional cleanup efforts be done in a rational and reasoned way. We must analyze the results of the many major anti-pollution efforts of the recent past before we impose additional expensive, intrusive requirements on individual citizens that will limit our choices and almost certainly produce virtually nothing in the way of measurable environmental improvements.

After all, the science of understanding how excess nutrients behave in soil and water is complex and not yet fully understood. We do know, however, that even if excess nutrients are completely eliminated, it will probably take years, or even decades, for legacy nutrients to be flushed from the system.

In that light, consider just a few of the major anti-pollution efforts that have been made in the last few years to benefit the waters of the inland bays, yet have not had time to produce their full benefits.

• Approximately 10,000 lots on Long Neck Road were converted from septic systems to central sewer.

• Sussex County has converted many thousands of additional septic systems to central sewer.

• Oak Orchard installed central sewer.

• The West Rehoboth Central Sewer system was built at a cost of approximately $100 million.

• 10 of 13 point sources of nutrients have been eliminated, with another one mitigated to the point of insignificance.

• The final two point sources, the Rehoboth and Millsboro central sewers, will be eliminated in 2014.

• Nearly all farms now operate under “nutrient management plans” that reduce fertilizer and manure use.

• Chicken companies are growing flocks in ways that produce fewer nutrients.

• Chicken manure is being exported out of Sussex County.

• Major upgrades of septic system regulations and stormwater regulations were completed between 2002 and 2005.

Finally, due to a study completed this year by Professor James Glancey under the auspices of the Universities of Delaware and Maryland, as well as the Delaware and Maryland departments of agriculture, it has been discovered that EPA estimates of both nitrogen and phosphorus being produced from chicken manure in Sussex County have been dramatically overstated.

EPA’s claim of over 35 million pounds per year of nitrogen being produced has been shown to actually be less than 15 million pounds, meaning a reduction of over 20 million pounds per year! Nearly four million pounds of phosphorus has also disappeared under the hard, cold glare of actual science. We believe these discrepancies are so great that all of EPA’s nutrient estimates should be examined before being accepted and acted on. As President Reagan once said, “trust, but verify.”

If you would prefer actual environmental facts over political manipulation, we would suggest reading the 2011 “State of the Bays” report from the Center for the Inland Bays. While we have our disagreements with the Center, and they with us, this report shows steady progress is being made in cleaning the inland bays. We believe the many major anti-pollution efforts we have detailed in this letter will produce meaningful benefits for years to come without being a huge burden on individual citizens. To see the report, type this link into your internet browser: http://www.inlandbays.org/wp-content/documents/2011-state-of-the-bays.pdf

If you would like to examine the James Glancey manure study, go to: http://www.csgeast.org/2012annualmeeting/documents/Glancey.pdf

Rich Collins
executive director
Positive Growth Alliance

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