Municipal wastewater treatment plants' nitrogen removal response to financial incentives in Maryland and Virginia

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Virginia Tech


As one of the largest and most productive estuaries in the United States, the Chesapeake Bay is a great economic, ecological, and cultural asset to the Mid-Atlantic region. Excess nitrogen and phosphorus discharge, however, has contributed to reduced levels of dissolved oxygen in various locations throughout the Bay. In 2010, the EPA developed a Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) for the entire watershed that established nutrient reduction targets to achieve Bay water quality objectives. The TMDL required states in the Chesapeake Bay watershed to create implementation plans to meet nutrient reductions. Maryland and Virginia specifically established stringent point source regulatory policies designed to meet point source reduction targets. Point source control programs created financial incentives for reducing nutrient discharge beyond regulatory requirements. This thesis will examine the extent to which Maryland and Virginia wastewater treatment plants undertake operational improvements to increase nutrient removal in response to state program incentives. Through quantitative and qualitative analysis, this thesis found evidence of lowered nitrogen discharges in response to financial incentives presented by each states point source control programs at municipal wastewater treatment plants. Maryland achieves modest improvements at a subset of advanced treatment WWTPs as a result of financial incentives presented by the state's public subsidy program. Although Virginia advanced treatment plants operating within a nutrient trading program have little incentive to over-comply, there is some evidence of operational improvements at less advanced nitrogen removal plants



Water quality, nutrient trading, wastewater, nutrient management