Thanks for producing a magazine that's truly a cut above the rest!

Jeff Berg via Facebook

You guys are the bible for public works! All your hard work is appreciated.

John Horn via Facebook

Responses to Editor in Chief Stephanie Johnston's “What’s wrong with this picture?” editorial (September 2012, page 7). Her comments regarding agriculture's contribution to water pollution as EPA works up new stormwater regulations elicited both criticism and support.

I agree that farms consume more water than any community (municipal demand in Nebraska is less than 5% of total water demand), but the economy has made them much more prudent. Good farmers apply as little nitrogen and other soil additives as possible. Some map their land for soil type, nutrient content, moisture, etc., down to the nearest few square meters, targeting nutrients to those individual meters with computer-controlled applicators.

Layering on another level of federal oversight will complicate and slow down the production of food in this country. The typical farm margin is less than 7%. How much money do you suggest farmers provide to combat “pollution”? If the feds get deeper into oversight, small farms will completely disappear.

You seem to advocate a new tax and regulation format for those evil farmers. In so doing, you ignore the evolution that farms have gone through since you were little. Techniques have changed drastically during the last 30 years, including water conservation, no-till farming, crop residue conservation, nutrient management — and yes, even runoff controls.

Tom Werblow, civil engineer, North Platte, Neb.

You didn't fully read the U.S. EPA’s latest ruling regarding concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFO): all CAFOs must have a permit at the time that they discharge. EPA recently updated all NPDES permits for agricultural operations. If you use pesticides, herbicides, or fertilizers you'll be responsible for any agricultural drainage that leaves your property and enters “Waters of the U.S.”

California's farming community is over-regulated by state and regional water quality control boards that are continually changing rules to comply with the Clean Water Act. Small, organic, and/or specialized farms suffer the most while large operations get even larger to maintain profit margins.

We lost our family farm when it was condemned to accommodate highway expansion and urban development in central California. So please forgive me for defending the farmers; it’s in my blood to do so.

By the way, the largest and most dangerous polluter to U.S. waters is urban stormwater runoff.

Name withheld

I struggle every day with the recent Chesapeake Bay requirements for total maximum daily loads (TMDLs). To get right to your point, there are 523 million chickens on the Delmarva (Delaware, Maryland, Virginia) peninsula. Poultry processors don’t pay farmers for manure disposal and, because of contracts, aren’t responsible themselves for disposal. Hence the problem: The farmer can’t afford disposal and the processor has washed its hands. So much manure has been spread for so long that in many places the soil’s ability to attach and remove nutrients is overwhelmed. So where does it go? You guessed it!

More importantly, why are there 523 million chickens on the DelMarVa peninsula? Because we want a chicken sandwich on the dollar menu! Consider chicken wings. When I was young, they were inexpensive and could feed many — and you only ate them when you were broke. Now they’re so popular that poultry processors cut breasts into shapes of wings and call them “boneless chicken wings.”

The Chesapeake Bay TMDL is expected to cost some jurisdictions billions of dollars by 2025. Most will be spent to retrofit stormwater BMPs and shoehorn new structures into the urban landscape. Will this improve water quality? No! Why? Because of unregulated agriculture in Pennsylvania and the rest of the watershed.Maryland has nutrient management plans for farms but enforcement is lacking. No other state is willing to enforce regulations on the “family farm.” The U.S. EPA can’t even find the farms, and the farm lobby is suing EPA as I write.

It's counter-intuitive for me to think that compliance won’t make a difference. But I feel that’s the case.

Boyd M. Church, Boonsboro, Md. Editor's note: Church is one of this issue's trendsetting innovators.

From “Are we water-marketing wimps?” editorial (June 2012, page 7)

We have both public and private providers. The city’s quality is hands-down better and it's cheaper, but people are complaining that their rates are going up over the next five years.

I agree that municipalities need better marketing, but we can't afford to staff a marketing department like private companies can.

— Larry Campbell, CPFP, fleet management director, City of Fort Wayne, Ind.

I will never understand how people will pay more than a dollar for bottled water, and then complain about their water bill.

Anthony Dahl, Tri-County Water Authority, Independence, Mo.

From “Another life lost in the course of duty” editorial (May 2012, page 7) about a suburban Chicago public works employee who was killed while collecting garbage

Thank you for your moving and thought-provoking tribute to Jason Bruscato. A tragic loss, and sadly emblematic of a problem that will have no resolution until/unless public awareness is aroused to a much greater extent than we currently see.

Jeff Berg, public relations manager North America, Atkins, Orlando, Fla.

From “Once again, public works’ status as a first responder is unclear” (May 2012, page 13)

Regarding narrowband build-out, assignments, etc., the delay or hesitancy to include public works needs to be resolved soon. Funds are limited. There’s no room to budget for the improbable but we can't delay if it's inevitable.

Robert A. Stephenson, chief of operations, City of Altus, Okla.

Editor's note: Speaking of budgeting, our next issue features the results of our annual survey of reader operational and capital spending expectations for the year. Initial feedback's mixed: some of you plan to begin catching up on deferred nonessential maintenance and other shelved plans; others are still robbing Peter to pay Paul. Watch for our January 2013 cover story.

From “March against markings continues” (February 2012, page 14)

The first sentence says the law prohibits state authorities from using paint mixed with reflective glass beads because of high arsenic levels. Wrong. The law only prohibits glass beads that contain the elevated arsenic levels and specifies the maximum arsenic concentration.

Daniel McGinnis, PE, PTOE, Remington & Vernick Engineers, Haddonfield, N.J.

Editor’s note: Sharp eye, Mr. McGinniss! We did indeed misstate the facts: New Jersey didn’t “outlaw” all reflective glass beads, just those with more than 100 ppm inorganic arsenic. Twenty-three other states also limit the heavy metals content of beads that will be mixed with highway marketing paint. Thanks for keeping us honest.