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Midstate counties make Top 5 list of agricultural polluters

HARRISBURG, Pa. (WHTM) -- Five Midstate counties are considered the top agricultural polluters in the state, according to a new report.

The Chesapeake Bay Foundation released statistics on Tuesday that reveal Lancaster County is the biggest offender when it came to the annual release of nitrogen into creeks and streams within the Chesapeake Bay Watershed. The Top 5 is rounded out by York, Franklin, Cumberland and Adams counties.

"These five counties alone generate 30-million pounds of nitrogen pollution through agriculture each year," said BJ Small, a spokesman for CBF's Pennsylvania division.

The foundation says it used federal data to explore the amount of nitrogen that is escaping from farmland into waterways annually via fertilizers and animal waste. Statistics highlighted a failure on behalf of the state to meet federal Clean Water Blueprint goals, aimed to reduce agricultural pollution practices by 60 percent by 2017 and in full by 2025.

CBF hopes the study will prompt the release of $20 million in federal grants aimed at speeding up cleanup goals in those areas. Those dollars would be aimed specifically at helping agencies and landowners through various programs, to expedite pollution prevention practices in the Top 5 worst counties.

The most cost-effective projects include creating forested buffer zones between agricultural fields and waterways. Other methods include increasing the number of cover crops, wetland restoration, fencing and implementing modern animal waste systems.

"We feel that a lot of farmers in Pennsylvania really want to do the right thing and put these best management practices on the ground to reduce pollution," Small added, "but in a lot of cases, sadly, money gets in the way."

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