Despite reduction in phosphorus and sediment, the bay’s nitrogen loads remain an issue
The Chesapeake Bay Program (CBP) announced Dec. 15 that water quality in the Chesapeake Bay hit near-record highs since the program launched. Preliminary data collected by the restoration program showed nearly 40% of the bay met standards for water clarity, oxygen and algae growth between 2014 and 2016, marking a 2% increase from the previous assessment.
The CBP, in collaboration with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), works to combat the continuous challenge of sediment and nutrient overloads, particularly nitrogen and phosphorus, which contribute to algal blooms that deplete oxygen. Sediment overloads can silt over oyster reefs, suffocate shellfish and prevent underwater grasses from accessing sunlight.
The major caveat to the bay’s water quality improvements is heavy nitrogen loads, which experts attribute to agriculture, storm water and pollution runoff. Many water monitoring stations located along the bay show worsening 10-year trends for nitrogen reduction.
“While these improving trends are encouraging, we must ramp up our efforts to implement pollution control measures to ensure progress toward 100% of the water quality standards are achieved,” said CBP Director Nick DiPasquale.