Intergrated Water Resource Plan
Whats the Problem
Types of Pollution
The New Integrated Water Resources Plan
The Conservation District
Manure and Pesticide Management
Frequently Asked Questions
Project Green Lancaster takes a look at the local green and sustainable issues in Lancaster County. What it has not talked about is how Lancaster County affects its neighboring counties, states and water supply. Lancaster County is a part of the Chesapeake Bay Watershed. The Chesapeake Bay Watershed stretches from Southern Virginia through Central and Northern Pennsylvania, peaking in Upstate New York. The emissions of water pollution from Lancaster County and all the other watershed regions affect the Chesapeake Bay. What the Lancaster Green infrastructure and their Intergraded Water Resource Plan aims to do is keep it local. With the aid of people and organizations, such as the Lancaster County Conservation District, the idea of cleaning the Lancaster Watershed is a reachable goal. The theory of the Intergraded Water Resource Plan is that “all things run down hill.” Keeping this theory in mind, if Lancaster County’s water supply was cleaner and less contaminated, it will improve the Susquehanna River, which flows into the Chesapeake Bay. So, clean our creek, clean our river, and clean our Chesapeake Bay.
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What’s the problem?
In Lancaster we have a large contingency of farmland. Also, urban communities are growing and emerging. In both of these living environments, high amounts of water pollution are occurring and impacting the watershed. From the sewers of the city to the corn stocks of the farmland, if you live in the boarders of Lancaster, you are impacting not only the county’s water supply, but also the Susquehanna River and the Chesapeake Bay. In Lancaster there is over 1,400 miles of streams and creeks. Just under half are impaired streams or worse. The farmland in Lancaster County is a great resource for the county, but it is a leading contributor in its pollution. This is the reason for the Intergraded Water Resource Plan: to keep the counties natural beauty and functionality but reduce the impact on the watershed.
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Types of pollutions
Farming pollutants is one of the biggest contributors to the county’s water issues. There are many different ways that the farmland contributes to the pollution of the watershed with some of the issues overlapping one to another. Making people aware of the different pollutants and their causes is one way that can start the cleaning of the watershed, i.e. the overall goal of the Intergraded Water Resource Plan to clean Lancaster’s water. These pollution types are the main sources of pollution in agriculture.
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Non-point source pollution
Non-point source pollution refers to many sources, which combine from different places into a water source. It can be aided by water in the form of precipitation or from atmospheric contributors, such as wind, drainage and seepage.
Sediment runoff-When soil is washed off the fields, the excess sediment is flushed from the fields and into waterways in nearby rivers and streams. This can prohibit growth and contaminates water supplies.
Nutrient runoff-When nutrients enter sediment runoff, they enter by crop residue, irrigation, wild life and atmospheric deposits.
Pesticides-Pesticides can enter the water supply by runoff as well. The pesticides that are administered to plants are also deposited to the ground. Also the pesticides deposit off the plants and collects in the soil and the soil is washed away to a water supply.
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Point source pollution
Point sources pollution is any single recognizable, identifiable, localized source of pollutants. Point source pollution usually deals with livestock and feces storage devices.
Animal wastes-Animal waste contains strong organic content, synthetic hormones, high solids concentration, bactria (such asbrucella and salmonella) and high nitrate and phosphorus
Silage liquor-The production of Silage liquor contains sulfuric acid or formic acid. Farmers take grass and other green crops and combined it with the sulfuric acid or formic acid to create food for their animals. In the process of fermentation, liquid leaks from the containers and seeps into ground water.
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Ground water pollution
Ground water aquifers are very susceptible to pollutants that may not directly affect surface water. With this in mind, non-point source pollution would not easily be determined. Saturation and soil characteristics play a role in the pollutants’ emission into the aquifers. Pathogens and chemicals are the two most concentrated contaminates. Power plants can release pollutants into the ground water from their cooling tanks and decreased oxygen levels in the underground aquifers
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The New Integrated Water Resources Plan
The Intergraded Water Resource Plan is a revised and updated version of its processor, the water resource plan. The Intergraded Water Resource Plan is a comprehensive plan that covers many issues in the water of the county. Some of the key points that the intergraded water resource plan will address is as follows:
- Support and facilitate the implementation of Lancaster County’s urban and rural growth management strategies.
- Protect, conserve and improve surface and groundwater resources for human and non-human use.
- Facilitate implementation of other elements of the county’s comprehensive; like Greenscapes, the Green Infrastructure element.
- Move forward with more efficient delivery of essential services.
In development of the Intergraded Water Resource Plan in 2008 a forum of governmental, non-governmental and other authorities identified three primary issues facing Lancaster’s water resource.
- Storm water management
- This is dealing with the overflow of some streams and creeks in the county and how uncontrolled run-off is contributing to this problem.
- Water/Sewer infrastructure
- This is dealing with new sewer infrastructure that is aimed to keep up with the growing urban population as well as protecting the farmland.
- This is dealing with the possible regulations being handed down by the Environmental Protection Agency if the quality of water is not improved.
The Intergraded Water Resource Plan was talked over and discussed, with participants all strongly agreeing that a local action needs to be taken that would help the Chesapeake Bay Watershed. In 2008 the Lancaster County Planning Commission created an advisory committee to oversee the intergraded water resource plan and the plans outlined above.
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Lancaster County is the garden spot of the Keystone State. In Lancaster County there are nearly 5,000 farms. In these farms food is grown to sell at local markets and stores. Additionally, farms raise live stock, giving milk to the surrounding community and raising it for meat, too.
On these farms there are a lot of good things that we use every day. However, also on these farms there are contaminants that are destroying the local streams, and in turn, the water supply. The local water system and watershed has been stripped away over time by a number of actions that have been taken by generations of farmers.
These farmers were not neglectful because they did not know that harm they were doing at the time. The technology and education that is currently present has shown the mistakes and mistreatment of the land that had been taking place over the years. Lancaster County with its farming infrastructure flows through Pennsylvania, for both the good and the bad. Farmers today not only need to keep their farms from impacting the Watershed; but they also need to fix the mistakes that there predecessors have left behind.
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Animal Heavy Use Areas are mostly centered on animal farms. These areas are defined by Agricultural Environmental Regulations as:
“barnyard, feedlot, loafing areas, exercise lot or other similar areas on agricultural operations where due to the concentration of animals it is not possible to establish and maintain vegetable cover of a density capable of minimizing acceleration erosion and sedimentation by usual planting methods”
These places are a breeding ground for erosion and run-off to a close by stream or creek. Livestock in these areas can be very harmful to the nearby water supplies when they defecate. The reason is that these areas have susceptibility to run-off and erosion due to the bareness and lack of vegetation. Livestock that has access to open streams or creaks can do harmful damage to the downstream residents.
Manure and other livestock waste are stored in lagoons. These lagoons can hold millions of gallons of waste. The issue is that these lagoons are often leaky and in some instances rupture and spill their contents. The consequences of these lagoons overflowing and/or rupturing are that the manure is around 160 times more toxic and harmful than sewage.
The long-standing school of farming was to take the manure in your lagoons and spray them on the fields as fertilizer. This is a good natural recycling effort, but the amount of wasted produced by the livestock outweighs the need for fertilizer. When manure is applied to the fields, the farmer must be cautious to not saturate the ground.
When the ground is saturated it creates an easier path for the excess manure to find a water source. The manure can also seep into the ground water and into wells and other drinking-water tributaries. The most common water pollution is excess levels of nitrogen and phosphorus, because it is one of the main compounds in manure.
Beyond that, there are excess levels of ammonia and nitrates in the manure. These pollutants are harmful to not just humans, but also to the marine inhabitants that live in the nearing streams creek and rivers.
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In agricultural farming there are many different contributors to emissions of pollution in this area. The one constant theme is that there are chemicals involved. Farms must produce crops to stay profitable, and they must be big plentiful crops. They cannot be eaten by bugs or be skimpy in size. These crops are people’s livelihoods for their family and future, and so they must be the picture of perfection, at any cost to some farmers.
Fertilizer and manure are practices used by farmers to help their crops grow to the fullest potential. Some of these chemicals come from a natural origin, like manure. Manure contains nitrates that plants consume to grow and live. Some farmers add more nitrogen to their manure to aid the growth of the farms crops.
In this process of adding nitrogen to the natural manure, the soil also consumes nitrogen at a rapid pace. This process is called immobilization. Bacteria in the ground can use nitrogen instead of oxygen, even when oxygen is limited or not present. This process makes the nitrogen and nitrates part of the soil and not just in the soil. If you add more nitrogen to the manure you are adding the nitrogen that is being exposed to the soil and ground.
Some farmers use artificial fertilizer that is all chemical based. In moist fresh steer manure, this is about 0.5% nitrogen (N), 0.3% Phosphorus (P), 0.1% Potassium oxide (K2O), 0.3% Calcium (Ca), 0.1% Magnesium (Mg), 16.7% organic matter and 81.3% moister content. That is natural manure content that is not tampered with or enriched in any way.
Phosphorus fertilizers are composed of 12% nitrogen (N), 27% Phosphorus (P2O5), 5 % Hydrogen (H) and 56% oxygen (O). Another artificial fertilizer, Potassium fertilizers, is 52% Potassium (K), 48% Chloride (Cl). Urea fertilizers contain 20% Carbon (C), 6.6% Hydrogen (H), 26.7% Oxygen (O) and 46.7% Nitrogen (N). As you can see the nitrogen content in the synthetic fertilizer is 153 times more potent than the natural organic fertilizer. In the raw manure there was less than two percent of chemicals and over 98% water or organic matter, which does less damage to the environment.
Some farmers mix artificial fertilizer with the manure created by their livestock. Some farmers think that this is safer than using fertilizer but this process still drives the chemical levels sky high from natural manure. This is where run-off and sediment run-off come into play. Run-off will occur no matter what precaution you take. However, what matters are the potency of the run-off and the potency of the soil that is being swept away. A farm that uses all natural manure will out-put less pollution than a farm that uses artificial chemical fertilizer.
Pesticides are another chemical issue that is contributing to water pollution. Pesticides are used to control harmful plants, pests, and bacteria. Pesticides can save farmers money by killing pests that lead to crop loss. Pesticides are one of the biggest variables in the industry. If pesticides are banned, it could raise produce prices. It would drive prices up because the framers have to composite for the estimated 10% of crops lost to pest related issues.
There are many types of pesticides, and they target different types of things. Algae, birds, bacteria, fungi, insects and mites are a few targeted groups. Some of the names of the pesticides are as follows: algaecides, avicides, bactericides, fungicides and insecticides. These pesticides do protect the crops but they also kill native species of insects and animals in the area.
Pesticides are administered by airplane, and around 95% of pesticides that are sprayed do not reach their intended destination. This is termed “pesticide drift.” Pesticide drift can occur via human error by simply missing the intended target. Pesticide drift can also occur naturally by the wind. When the pesticide is sprayed, the wind and natural hazards must be taken into account. When the pesticides are sprayed, the wind pushes the chemicals from side to side, and the speed of the plain pushes the pesticides forward.
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The Conservation District
The Lancaster County Conservation District is an organization aimed at saving the Watershed. They are a volunteer organization that conducts stream restorations and teaches people how to save the streams that are on their land.
Lancaster County Conservation District has a goal of fixing all the contaminated streams and restoring them to their natural healthy states. The conservation district can go in and fix all the streams, but if they are not taken care of after they are restored, the status quo will remain the same.
The Lancaster County Conservation District has multiple approaches for farmers in the county to address the limitations of the pollution emissions. The first thing that the conservation district recommends is that every farmer in the county has a conservation plan. A conservation plan consists of self-regulation of practices performed on the farm. You must assess your soil, water and habitat. A conservation plan includes plans for livestock operations, compressive nutrition management plan and environmental quality assurance. The conservation plan is a blueprint of what a farmer should be doing. Conservation plans are flexible but must be followed to work.
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All over the county, the Lancaster County Conservation District restores and cleans the streams and creeks. Their mission is to cleanse all the red-impaired streams located on the county map. Stream restoration can take many forms. It can be fixing a damaged culvert, or it can be stabilizing a stream bank.
Stream studies to find out what activity the stream receives is critical to its restoration. The reason is that different techniques can be used is different situations depending on the actions of the stream. In the year 2012 the Lancaster County Conservation District will conduct two stream restorations. Some of the techniques that they use are creating vertical banks, planting natural habitat around the stream banks and building flood plains to stop flooding in the residential area.
In the area Lancaster County Conservation District has restored Mummau Park stream, Lititz Run Riparian Park stream, Maple Grove stream and many others. They also install buffer strips and fences like at Stonehenge Riparian, Hempfield, Hopeland Farm and Furnace Run. The people at the Lancaster County Conservation District work very diligently to clean the waterways of Lancaster for a better water consistency in the area.
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Another thing that the conservation district recommends for all farms in the county is a soil-erosion plan. An erosion plan is a plan that a farmer should have to slow down the erosion presses of their farm. There are many different techniques that a farmer can unitize that are cost effective. The first is a buffer strip; a buffer strip is a strip of land that is permanently full of vegetation, separating the farm land from a stream or creek in the area. This will absorb the run-off and erosion that is flowing from the farmland, trapping it so it does not reach the creek or river that it is protecting.
Another thing that a farmer can do is contour plowing, a practice that involves different plowing strategies. The idea is to plow perpendicular rows on hills and banks. This practice will slow the flow of water down hill, because the rows slow the flow of water; because the perpendicular rows hold up the water instead of free flow of parallel rows.
Strip-farming is also a farming practice that can have great effects on preventing erosion and run-off. This course of action includes planting different crops in strips right next to each other. For example, planting grains, like wheat, hay and other small grains like them, together in alternating rows holds water and runoff in the crops.
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Manure and pesticide management
Since 1977 a Manure Management plan has been required by the state of Pennsylvania. It is also required that a registered engineer must certify all of semi-liquid and liquid manure lagoons or any other storage devices on the farm. The goal of the manure management plan is to utilize the nutrients of manure while preserving the public’s safety and health.
To further reduce manure and pesticide pollution on your farm, organic farming is one way that you can reduce the emissions of your farm. Organic farming is a farming philosophy that is more natural and environmentally conscious.
Organic farmers still use fertilizer and pesticides, just not synthetic items. Green manure is one of the products that organic farmers use. Green manure is a cover crop that adds organic matter and nutrients to the soil. It is grown at a specific time, and it is incorporated into the ground after plowing.
Using fresh manure with no synthetic mixture is also a fairly conservative action that a farmer can take. The only thing that is an issue is the amount of manure used. If there is too much manure it will sit on the top soil and be swept away by run-off. If a reasonable amount of fresh manure is applied to the fields and other farming techniques, like erosion control, are used, there is a small risk of contamination.
The most natural pesticide is crop rotation. What crop rotation does is it keeps pests from forming long term homes on your farm. By moving different crops around the farm season after season the pests have no time to permanently settle. They will die off because the crop that was in that location last year would not be in the same place the next year. This practice in laminas terms confuses the particular insects that are feeding on your crops.
Some of the safest pesticides used in today’s agricultural community are bacterial toxin, rotenone, pyrethrum,sulphur and copper. These products are much safer than their synthetic counter parts. The chemical compounds that are used in synthetic pesticides are chemical warfare on pests.
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There are many different things that farmers can do with their livestock to reduce pollution from their farm. One is to reduce the farm’s Animal Heavy Use Area. There are a few ways to achieve this. One example is to rotate different areas to where the livestock has access. Different seasons allow the livestock different portions of the farm. This will reduce the bare ground and give the vegetation a chance to grow back.
Animal housing, kops, stalls and any structure that holds animals needs to be cleaned properly to ensure cleanliness and to reduce the chance of non-point pollution. This effort should run accordingly with a farm’s manure management plan.
A manure management plan covers all uses, storage and collection activates that deal with manure. The manure management plan in the area of storage says that all vessels of semi-liquid and liquid manure need to be water tight. The storage device needs to be built of concrete, steel, durable plastic or a combination of these materials.
The storage unit should begin being filled in the springtime; the sludge level should be checked regularly. Storage facilities should be well-ventilated at all times. Humans should stay out of faculty, unless the ventilation system is running.
Stream Bank Fencing should be installed around any waterway that runs through a farm. It is used to keep livestock out of the stream or creek. It is aimed at keeping the animals from contaminating the stream and waterway. Fencing around streams and creeks also keeps the livestock from grazing the vegetation leading to the stream or creek. Keeping the livestock from grazing all the way into the stream is that it acts as a buffer strip that can slow down runoff of the animal-use area around it. How this is paid for Some of these regulations that the state is implementing on the county’s farmers are expensive, such as fencing, steel and concrete lagoons, machines to dispense manure properly and environmentally-safe practices, all of which are naturally more expensive. There are grants and funds available to farmers from the county, state and national government agencies.
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In Lancaster County there is so much diversity between the city and the county. But with all that diversity there is bonding through close networking of Lancaster County’s recourses. The farmland fuels the in-town markets that attract people, bringing foot traffic into the city that houses countless shops and businesses. In turn those same in-town markets fuel the farms by buying locally, creating a demand for locally-grown products. The Intergraded Water Resource Plan wants this cycle to be ongoing indefinitely. With the aid of the Lancaster County Conservation District and the many volunteers that help clean, fix and maintain the waterways in Lancaster, the impaired stream list is getting smaller one stream at a time.
The farmers of Lancaster County, with the guidance of the Intergraded Water Resource Plan and other standards that are in place, are beginning to erase the imprint on the county’s emissions of water pollution into the Chesapeake Bay. Saving the Chesapeake Bay and the Environmental Protection Agency’s list of regulation for cleaning the Chesapeake Bay Watershed is the reason for the Intergraded Water Resource Plan. With the Intergraded Water Resource Plan’s philosophy of “it all flows down hill” in order to can clean our creek, clean our river and clean our Chesapeake Bay…together.
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Frequently asked questions
Q: How can I help clean up my local stream or creek?
A: what you can do is you can contact the Lancaster County Conservation District or visit the web site and start helping there.
Q: I do not own a large farm but I do grow food in my back yard what can I do to reduce my foot print on the counties water?
A: What you can do is you can do is using as little fertilizer as possible. Also what you can do is if there is a stream by keep your garden or land for crops as far away from the stream as possible. Lastly for a small scale farm or garden composting instead of manure or fertilizer can give you results without the potential risks to your area.
Q: I have a stream nearby that needs a lot of attention what should I do?
A: Well first you can contact the County Conservation District’s web site there you can find ways to get your stream or creek help. Also what you can do is be proactive. You can clean you stream of trash and weeds and other things of that nature. But the reconstruction of a stream or creek should be left to the County Conservation District.
Q: how can I help make change if I’m only one person?
A: well you are only one person and everybody is one person but together you are the mass and if every one person helps then that’s a lot of people helping the clean the water in the area.,
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