Jan 10, 2019

Chesapeake Bay Water Quality Suffers on Recent Report Card

The recent Chesapeake Bay report card dropped to a D-plus, following a season of heavy rains and storm water runoff

Chesapeake Bay's latest report card dropped due to storm water runoff
Chesapeake Bay's latest report card dropped due to storm water runoff

On Jan. 7, the Chesapeake Bay Foundation rated the health of the Chesapeake Bay a D-plus in a report card issued every two years. The foundation cited record regional rainfall as the primary cause of increased pollution and turbidity in the bay, which had previously seen improvements in water quality in recent years.

According to The Washington Post, the bay is facing increased levels of nitrogen and phosphorus pollution compared to the last report card. Additionally, the Conowingo Dam located on the Susquehanna River near Maryland’s border with Pennsylvania is no longer effectively capturing pollution-laden sediment because the reservoir behind the dam filled with sediment far sooner than expected.

“Simply put, the bay suffered a massive assault in 2018,” said William Baker, president of the Chesapeake Bay Foundation in a news conference. “The bay’s sustained improvement was reversed in 2018, exposing just how fragile recovery is.”

Baker also pointed to severe pollution in Pennsylvania’s portion of the Susquehanna River as a key area causing the bay’s health of suffer, as the area supplies 50% of the bay’s fresh water. He argued that there are 19,000 miles of streams and rivers in Pennsylvania that are polluted and contributing to the damage. Meanwhile, Virginia and Maryland were both more successful than Pennsylvania at meeting their pollution reduction targets, but still did not meet targets in reducing storm water runoff damages.

Despite the reports of increased nitrogen and phosphorus, likely from polluted storm water runoff, the report highlighted bay restoration work that increased scores for dissolved oxygen and bay grasses, as well as a reduction in dead zones, as reported by The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

“The good news is that scientists are pointing to evidence of the bay’s increased resiliency and ability to withstand and recover from these severe weather events,” said Beth McGee, the foundation's director of science and agricultural policy. “And this resiliency is a direct result of the pollution reductions achieved to date.”