The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, or EPA, regulates how much pollutants and sediments can enter the Chesapeake Bay Watershed through streams on any given day. Since Prince William County is part of the watershed, the EPA sets the county's Total Maximum Daily Load, or TMDL, allocations to establish the maximum amount of pollution — such as nitrogen, phosphorus and sediment — that can enter any body of water in the county without violating water quality standards.
To show that it is meeting requirements, the county must submit an action plan to the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality showing how it will reduce pollutants entering the watershed. The Prince William County Public Works Department is asking for the community's input on the document. "We have a draft, and we would welcome comments from the public to see if there's anything that they would like to see us do or if they would like to express any concerns," said Public Works spokeswoman Deb Oliver.
People who would like to comment on the action plan may do so until Monday, Dec. 12. Comments should be sent to Oliver at email@example.com or to Ben Eib at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The EPA established TMDL requirements in 2010; and since then, Prince William County has been working to meet the federal and state regulatory requirements, through projects such as stream restoration and storm water management, to limit the amount of designated pollutants flowing through the streams that feed into the watershed.
The Chesapeake Bay TMDL requires that Municipal Separate Storm Sewer System, or MS4, permit holders, such as Prince William County, achieve specific pollutant reductions during the three permit cycles, which are five years each.
During the first permit cycle, which began in 2013 and ends in 2018, the county must reduce the pollutants entering the watershed by 5 percent. During the second permit cycle between 2018 and 2023, Prince William County must decrease the amount of pollutants entering the watershed by another 35 percent. During the 2023 to 2028 permit cycle, the county must eliminate the remaining 60 percent of the pollutants entering the watershed.
Jurisdictions in the watershed are bound by law to pay for the projects that reduce pollutants, but matching grants are available and the county's Public Works Department has been able to take advantage of them in many cases, Oliver said.
For more information about the county's water quality action plans, visit www.pwcgov.org/publicworks.