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Clean Air Act has led to improved water quality in the Chesapeake Bay watershed
Date:11/6/2013

FROSTBURG, MD (November 6, 2013) A new study shows that the reduction of pollution emissions from power plants in the mid-Atlantic is making an impact on the quality of the water that ends up in the Chesapeake Bay. The study by scientists at the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science confirms that as the amount of emissions of nitrogen oxide from coal-fired power plants declined in response to the Clean Air Act, the amount of nitrogen pollution found in the waterways of forested areas in Pennsylvania, Maryland and Virginia fell as well.

"When we set out to reduce nitrogen pollution to the Chesapeake Bay, deposition of nitrogen resulting from air pollution on the watershed was considered uncontrollable," said Donald Boesch, president of the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science. "This study shows that improvements in air quality provided benefits to water quality that we were not counting on."

Researchers evaluated long-term water quality trends for nine forested mountain watersheds located along the spine of the Appalachian Mountains from Pennsylvania to southern Virginia over a 23-year period (1986 to 2009). The sampling began slightly before the Clean Air Act of 1990 imposed controls on power plant emissions to reduce nitrogen oxide pollution through its Acid Rain Program. According to the EPA, total human-caused nitrogen oxide emissions declined 32% from 1997 to 2005 in 20 eastern U.S. states that participated in the program.

Intended to reduce the emissions (sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxide) that caused acid rain, the program had the unintended consequence of reducing the amount of nitrogen oxide particles landing on forests in the sample area and ultimately improving water quality in the watershed.

"It worked for something nobody anticipated," said lead author Keith Eshleman, a professor at the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science's Appalachian Laboratory. "The ori
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Contact: Amy Pelsinsky
apelsinsky@umces.edu
410-330-1389
University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science
Source:Eurekalert  

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