The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recently fined the city of Lebanon, Pa. $81,000 on the account of failure to keep storm drains clear, therefore creating both environmental and health hazards for the city and surrounding areas. When certain wastes aren’t removed from storm drains, they are inevitably carried out to creeks and then ultimately, to larger bodies of water. In this case, the Chesapeake Bay. This process results in the pollution of the body of water that local residents depend on for living. Reportedly, city officials are currently working on a financial strategy to pay the fine.
The Elizabethtown College Environmental Group (ECEG) discussed the issue at their last meeting and concluded that they are supportive of the fine. On campus, the group’s purpose is to “promote environmental awareness through education and action, on campus and throughout our community, for the present and the future,” and thereby has a strong opinion on the pollution and the subsequent actions being taken. The group sees the fine as a “positive and appropriate action that could encourage towns/cities of the surrounding area to take responsibility for pollution regulations.”
The group stated that they wish to be quoted as one entity because they all contributed to the group’s discussion and formed their opinion as one organization. ECEG continued to state that, although they feel it is unfortunate that a local area has to face a financial burden, “the ripple of influence could promote awareness for the maintenance of waterways by other local governments and by regular citizens.”
In terms of consequences that the contamination will yield, the group offered some insight on water pollution. Essentially, the consequence of increased levels of nitrogen and phosphorus moving toward large bodies of water, particularly lakes and streams, is called eutrophication.
Eutrophication is the increase of phytoplankton in a body of water, or in other terms, the depletion of oxygen in water.
The issue that arises is where exactly the contamination will end up, since there are many people that depend on the water around the Chesapeake Bay, and as ECEG puts it, “These individuals deserve recognition.”
The party fining the city is the EPA, an organization in the United States that works toward creating and protecting a healthy environment. According to their mission statement, the group’s purpose is to ensure that “all Americans are protected from significant risks to human health and the environment where they live, learn and work.”
The issue in Lebanon has attracted the organization’s attention, speaking to the severity of the hazard at hand. Generally, the consequence of eutrophication, aside from lessened water quality, is the depletion of various species in the body of water (which is also a result of the oxygen deficiency). Additionally, the water may undergo an increase in turbidity (a measure of the degree to which a body of water has lost its transparency), an increased rate of sedimentation, (the body of water’s lifespan will be shorter), and the development of anoxic water (an extreme and significant decrease in oxygen beyond eutrophication), according to Dr. Lei Zheng and Dr. Michael J. Paul, in their report, “Effects of Eutrophication on Stream Ecosystems,” for Tetra Tech, Inc., an ecological consulting firm.
Despite unfortunate financial consequences for the city of Lebanon, environmental groups seem to believe that this fine is necessary and will inspire a positive change for the town while setting an example for others. Contamination is an issue that must be addressed for the sake of the environment as well as for the health of the citizens that live by and depend on the water of the Chesapeake Bay. The town will further convene to decipher how the fine will be paid.