Pollution program is failing to protect the bay

Tim Wheeler's recent article sheds new light on the confusing, distasteful, yet critically important problem of fecal pollution from chickens in the Chesapeake and coastal bays ("Maryland farm oversight called weak," Feb 2).

The problem appears to arise from a failed though well-meant "model" program instituted by the state. Maryland regulators seem to be engaged in a paper chase, in which they make sure that farmers have submitted plans to control runoff, then file those plans away with little effort to verify whether they are actually being implemented.

In the rare cases in which it is determined that such plans are not being followed, the fines for violators are trivial. There is no oversight of the agencies responsible and no transparency that would allow grass-roots watchdog and environmental groups to check up on the process or blow the whistle on lax state agencies.

The state's waterways belong to the people of Maryland, and we are distressed that our beautiful rivers and bays are being fouled by chicken feces. The public deserves accountability and complete transparency from a critical pollution control program that is apparently failing to adequately protect our bays.

There should be stiff penalties for violators. Kudos to environmental groups like the Waterkeepers Alliance for their brave efforts to make this happen despite the obstacles and secrecy. Now our state must step up to the plate and fix the problem.

Jean E. Rinaldo, Ocean City

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