West Chester, Pa (December 28, 2022) – Efforts to support clean streams and waterways in Chester County will receive more than $280,000 in state funding, state Senator Carolyn Comitta said.

The funds were awarded to the Chester County Conservation District to help reduce nutrient and sediment pollution and restore the health of local streams, rivers, and waterways.

“Protecting and restoring our streams and rivers is a matter of public health, environmental health, and economic health,” said Comitta, who serves as minority chair of the Senate Environmental Resources and Energy Committee. “Clean waterways support local wildlife and biodiversity, they’re a vital source of drinking water, and they’re crucial to tourism and outdoor recreation, like fishing, and swimming.”

In addition to supporting these investments, Comitta also supported the passage of a Clean Streams Fund in this year’s state budget. The fund allocated $220 million from federal American Rescue Plan dollars to clean up rivers and streams damaged by non-point source pollution, including agricultural runoff.

Agricultural runoff is a leading cause of sources of water quality impairment in Pennsylvania, impacting more than 6,400 miles of waterways statewide, according to the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection’s (DEP) 2022 Integrated Water Quality Monitoring Report.

Nutrient pollution and eroded sediment enter streams, rivers, and lakes from wastewater treatment and a range of human activities on land, including using too much fertilizer, plowing and tilling farm fields, stripping away trees and vegetation, and expanding concrete and paved surfaces.

The grant funding comes as part of $12.2 million in total funding awarded to support pollution reduction programs in 34 counties in the Chesapeake Bay Watershed. It comes through DEP’s Countywide Action Plan Implementation Grant program, a key part of Pennsylvania’s Chesapeake Bay Phase 3 Watershed Implementation Plan.

“In every county, local leaders and partners in agriculture, conservation, and other areas are carrying out measures they’ve determined will have the biggest impact in reducing pollution and bringing the benefits of a healthy watershed to their communities,” said DEP Acting Secretary Ramez Ziadeh. “DEP is committed to doing everything it can to support this unprecedented grassroots action and progress. The 2023 CAP Implementation funding will enable teams to build on their previous years’ successes and launch new projects, accelerating Pennsylvania’s Phase 3 Watershed Implementation Plan.”

The plan empowers county teams to take control of local water quality improvement, with state and other partners providing as much data, technical assistance, funding, and other support as possible. It encourages and equips counties to develop strategies and projects that will benefit their communities and farmers, municipalities, businesses, and other landowners, while restoring the environment.

Projects and initiatives include not only stream restorations, streambank tree plantings, and livestock crossing installations, but also scaling up forest land conservation, programs that rent no-till equipment to farmers for low or no cost, and using repurposed-timber mats to keep cows from compacting muddy areas.

The Chesapeake Bay Watershed spans half the Commonwealth and includes over 12,000 miles of polluted streams and rivers. Like the other jurisdictions in the watershed — New York, Maryland, Virginia, Delaware, West Virginia, and the District of Columbia — Pennsylvania is mandated by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to lower its nutrient (nitrogen and phosphorus) and sediment pollution levels by 2025. Pennsylvania is required to reduce nitrogen by 32.5 million pounds and phosphorus by 850,000 pounds.