NHPR’s Annie Ropeik has a story about EPA approving a sort of group-hug methodology for reducing the amount of nitrogen that ends up in the Great Bay from surrounding towns. This is a common situation where the problem is worse than the sum of the parts because pollution builds on pollution – so it makes more sense to tackle it as a whole rather than by tackling individual communities one at a time. Easier said than done, however.

Ropeik’s story is here.

Instead of regulating each of those issues in each town separately, the permit takes what officials say is a novel approach for the EPA. It sets a target for limiting nitrogen pollution, and lets the towns decide how to invest in meeting it.

Ted Diers, administrator of the state’s Watershed Bureau, says his agency and the towns pushed for this more flexible strategy, after it was clear that EPA-mandated wastewater upgrades weren’t enough to restore the estuary.

The AP story (here) notes that a similar approach is being taken in Massachusetts “with a federal stormwater permit that calls for dozens of communities in the Charles River watershed to reduce phosphorus” while a state permit in Connecticut “calls for dozens of communities to reduce nitrogen from their wastewater treatment plans into the Long Island Sound. “

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