This summer, the veteran waterman steered his workboat to a spot off Point Lookout, near Maryland’s southern tip, where he had set his crab pots. He pulled them up to find they were filled with dead crabs.
   Norris has worked the bay for nearly 20 years, and he has long known about “bad water” — oxygen-deprived swaths where little can live. But this was the first week in July. He had never seen bad water so early, or in so many places.
   “It’s disheartening,” he said, “to say the least.”
   During the past 25 years, several billion dollars in state and federal funds have gone to bay cleanup programs. A large chunk of that — including money from Maryland’s landmark flush tax — has paid for improvements to sewage treatment plants. Other money has gone to farmers to plant cover crops and conserve land.
   Environmental experts say those steps have helped to hold the line — that the bay would be in even worse shape without them. But it has not gotten better.

The Sun has a new two-part look at the sinking health of the Chesapeake and at watershed woes doing it harm — with emphasis on Maryland’s own watershed & river problems. (The Chesapeake watershed covers an area from central New York to southern Virginia.) The first article, run today, details ongoing river pollution problems in Maryland. And it comes with video coverage, if that’s your preferred medium.

2 Replies to “Watershed”

  1. A very interesting article, it seems that the over-reliance in chemicals used by homes as well as farms, combined with natural conditions (storms, the bay itself) is the problem. Although, as ever, we might also say that it’s lack of environmental knowledge that has led to this. If people are able to find out what’s happening and what they can do, then there’s hope the bay (and others like it) can be saved. Is this the practical wisdom you are looking for?

    I do hope ‘Chessie’ is ok.

  2. I think maybe a relatively good job has been done preventing much really poisonous industrial and non-industrial waste (DDT, &c. — the stuff we heard about in the 60s & 70s especially) going into the water in large quantities, but we’re left with this massive, still burgeoning problem of elements in themselves not harmful — nitrogen & phosphorous here particularly — along with just plain dirt, sediment, being passed down from many, many upstream sources and finally affecting the bay & lower rivers in large quantity. These elements + dirt don’t so much poison as they alter — changing what grows & when — so that the whole natural procession of seasonal river & bay life gets thrown out of whack in the most astonishing way. And the primary solution, as things stand today, isn’t so much to eliminate these pollutants as to provide various kinds of blockers & buffers so that they don’t pass rapidly into ground water & streams/rivers. What’s particularly distressing here, as also for instance in the Gulf of Mexico to a horrifying degree, is that enormously extensive algal growths on the water’s surface are stimulated by this inflow of our human and agricultural waste/fertilizers. The algae grows, but its growth blocks — in fact wipes out — the life below.

    Yes, though — maybe a way of saying it is that it’s a great evolution in phronesis we want. We need to change a lot of systemic & infrastructural details, but we also just need to learn to see & hear & feel very differently our living on the earth.

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