Chesapeake Bay Pollution Facts And What We Can Do To Help Right Now

Anusuya Mukherjee
Nov 02, 2023 By Anusuya Mukherjee
Originally Published on Jan 11, 2022
Chesapeake Bay pollution facts are extremely important for all environmentalists.

The Chesapeake Bay is one of the largest estuaries in the United States that covers six states including New York, Virginia, West Virginia, Maryland, Pennsylvania, Delaware.

With its diverse flora and fauna, the perfect time to visit the Chesapeake region is during spring. But nowadays, Chesapeake Bay pollution is a serious concern that needs to be addressed, and also numerous solutions are needed to stop pollution in the Chesapeake Bay.

Various human activities are the main cause of pollution in the Chesapeake Bay that leads to excess nutrients. Excess nutrients deteriorate the water quality affecting aquatic species, and many more, so let’s dive into the rest of the article to know more about the Chesapeake Bay pollution facts and what we can do to help right now.

After reading these facts about the pollution problem beckoning the Chesapeake Bay, also check Los Angeles pollution facts and Beijing pollution facts.

Pollution In The Bay

The word pollution is a common term that is heard everywhere. There are various steps being taken to help reduce pollution.

Pollution happens when harmful substances (pollutants) such as industrial waste, sewage waste, and chimney smoke contaminate the rivers, air, and land leading to the distortion of the normal function of the ecosystem.

As we know, Chesapeake Bay is one of the largest estuaries in the United States, lives of plants, animals, fish species, and also the lives of people are dependent on the Chesapeake watershed. It is also a major source of income for people living in the Chesapeake Bay watershed.

But, Chesapeake Bay pollution is a serious concern. Increased needs of humans are affecting the Chesapeake Bay watershed negatively.

The primary concern for the Chesapeake Bay is nutrient pollution, phosphorus pollution, nitrogen pollution, and sediment pollution. Excess nitrogen, agricultural lands, and industrial facilities are gradually interfering with the normal function of aquatic life leading to the formation of dead zones due to the decreased level of oxygen, making it impossible for the aquatic life to live.

Origins Of Nutrient Pollution In The Bay

Nutrient, phosphorus pollution, and sediment pollution are a part of water pollution. Nutrient pollution is caused by the excess nitrogen added to the water bodies that triggers the growth of the algae blooms.

Nitrogen and phosphorus are found in the fertilizers used in agricultural fields. These highly-loaded nitrogen chemicals then pass from the land to the water body which then deteriorates the water quality affecting the fish species.

Also, sediment pollution is one of the major concerns according to the Environmental Protection Agency. The Environmental Protection Agency considers sediment as the main pollutant which occurs naturally or comes from building sites, and swimming pools.

The sediment then lowers the water quality making the water cloudy and affecting the fish species. Also, increased sediment can lead to sea levels rising which can cause floods.

Till now, we have understood that nitrogen and phosphorus are the main sources of nutrients in the Chesapeake Bay watershed. But where do all these nutrients come from and how does it get into the Chesapeake Bay watershed?

Nutrients are essential for aquatic plants and animals to live, but excess nutrients can harm aquatic life and water quality.

Before the industrial growth and human population, the Chesapeake Bay ecosystem consisted of wetlands, forests, and enough nutrients needed for the survival of underwater plants and fish.

But with the growth of power plants, agricultural lands, and air pollution in the watershed, managing the Chesapeake Bay ecosystem is becoming a difficult task due to the continuous disposal of sewage waste, fertilizers into the rivers leading to the growth of the algal blooms.

The excessive algae growth blocks the sunlight needed for the survival of underwater plants and animals.

Effects On Submerged Aquatic Vegetation

Having underwater grasses also known as submerged aquatic vegetation is a sign of a healthy Chesapeake Bay ecosystem.

Underwater grasses have several benefits- it increases the oxygen level in the water, act as a habitat for wildlife, and reduce nutrient pollution. To survive, they also go through the photosynthesis process that converts sunlight into their food.

But increased industrial wastes and agricultural wastes are some of the major reasons for eutrophication in the Chesapeake Bay watershed. Eutrophication leads to the excess growth of harmful algal blooms making the water cloudy and blocking the sunlight.

The limited access to the sunlight makes it impossible for the underwater grasses to survive. Even the toxins released by the algal blooms can cause harm to the animals.

So, several measures are taken into consideration to improve the water quality that can help the gradual growth of underwater grasses.

The most contaminated fish in the Chesapeake Bay watershed includes the striped bass and largemouth bass.

Restoring The Bay

People are responsible for disturbing the Chesapeake Bays' balanced ecosystem, so people should implement measures to help restore the bay.

Although the thought of restoring the bay can be seen as a humongous task, little steps can surely lead to a fruitful result. It is us who should adopt a lifestyle that would also benefit the environment.

Saving rainwater, cleaning animal waste, looking out for the pollutants that cause air pollution and water pollution are all steps that we can make in order to help protect the environment.

The Chesapeake Bay Program has been formulated to tackle the growing problem of increasing levels of pollution in the Chesapeake Bay.

The Chesapeake Bay Program has identified concerted and specific measures that are required to bring about a change in the pollution levels in the region. Further, the Chesapeake Bay Program also identifies particular measures to determine the actual results that have been achieved through these efforts and quantify them for proper assessment.

An annual assessment report for Bay Health and Restoration is provided by the authorities on the official Chesapeake Bay Program website.

This program keeps a track of around 19 indicators that have been divided into different areas as per their priority.

These areas pertain to the major facets of the restoration efforts for the Chesapeake Bay and include restoring habitats, reducing pollution, protecting the watersheds, managing fisheries, and fostering stewardship. For each of these indicators, quantitative goals have been identified and these objects have to be achieved with help of multiple communication and outreach initiatives.

In the year 2009, President Barack Obama released an executive order which recognized the Chesapeake Bay as a national treasure and instructed the federal government to take the initiative to restore and protect the environment in the Chesapeake Bay.

The Chesapeake Bay has an extremely important role to play in the ecology of the country. The Chesapeake Bay is the biggest estuary present inside the United States and is also the third-largest estuary in the world.

The Chesapeake Bay watershed features the complete Columbia District as well as considerable parts of six different states.

These states include New York, West Virginia, Maryland, Delaware, Pennsylvania, and Virginia.

The excessive quantities of nitrogen and phosphorus in the Chesapeake Bay have emerged as one of the biggest concerns in the region as it is adversely affecting the water quality.

Without a doubt, phosphorus and nitrogen have always been an extremely essential aspect of the ecosystem at the Chesapeake Bay but the extremely high levels that are present in the current times are a cause for serious concern.

Excessive amounts of nitrogen and phosphorus are one of the biggest problems being faced in the restoration of the ideal condition of the Chesapeake Bay.

These quantities of nitrogen and phosphorus can be attributed to wastewater, discharges from the septic tank, discharge from fertilizers, air pollution, and run-off water from cities and farms.

Construction sites and soil erosion are also responsible for excessive amounts of sediments being present in the Chesapeake Bay. The ongoing development of farmland and forests results in the watershed losing its natural ability to filter all the pollutants that enter the rivers and streams, thereby ending in the Chesapeake Bay.

Consequently, a considerable number of pollutants washes off the land and enter the freshwater tributaries of the Chesapeake Bay.

Point Source Vs Nonpoint Source Pollution

Water pollution can be classified into two types- point source pollution and nonpoint source pollution. The pollutants from the point source pollution are identifiable whereas pollutants from the nonpoint source pollution are from various sources.

Humans for their benefit started establishing industries, power plants in the watershed causing Chesapeake Bay pollution. Point source pollution is identifiable and comes from the pipe of wastewater treatment plants, and factories.

These industries sometimes directly dispose of the water into the water body affecting the water quality, but mostly, they treat the water before disposing it into large water bodies.

Nonpoint source pollution is also one of the major concerns of Chesapeake Bay pollution. The pollutants from the nonpoint source pollution are not easily identifiable and come from various sources such as parking lots, agricultural wastes affecting the water quality. The other pollutants that deteriorate the water quality are animal waste, excess nitrogen, and phosphorus.

Why is the Chesapeake Bay unique and fragile and why should we save it?

As already said before, Chesapeake Bay is one of the largest estuaries in the United States. It is a home to diverse flora and fauna living there. Besides wildlife and plant species, there are also millions of people that live there.

It is also one of the top tourist destinations where people from around the world visit. Large animals to small animals are all dependent on each other for their food. This food web helps in the survival of living organisms in the Chesapeake Bay.

The Chesapeake Bay is also one of the national treasures of Maryland, helping the locals financially where they conduct different recreational activities for tourists such as boating, fishing, bird watching, and many more.

So, there is no point to consider why we shouldn't put our effort into saving the Chesapeake Bay ecosystem. Many lives are dependent on the Chesapeake Bay. The bay not only provides life but also supports it financially. So, we have to take care of this beautiful landscape.

The National Wildlife Federation introduced the Choose Clean Water Coalition in order to promote the maintenance and restoration of numerous streams and rivers that enter the Chesapeake Bay. The Choose Clean Water Coalition features more than 200 entities from the states in which parts of the Chesapeake Bay are present.

The participants include New York, Virginia, West Virginia, Delaware, Maryland, and Pennsylvania as well as the entire district of Columbia. These participants are advocation for ensuring cleanliness in the water entering the Chesapeake Bay.

Here at Kidadl, we have carefully created lots of interesting family-friendly facts for everyone to enjoy! If you liked our suggestions for Chesapeake Bay pollution facts then why not take a look at coal pollution facts, or car pollution facts.

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Written by Anusuya Mukherjee

Bachelor of Arts and Law specializing in Political Science and Intellectual Property Rights

Anusuya Mukherjee picture

Anusuya MukherjeeBachelor of Arts and Law specializing in Political Science and Intellectual Property Rights

With a wealth of international experience spanning Europe, Africa, North America, and the Middle East, Anusuya brings a unique perspective to her work as a Content Assistant and Content Updating Coordinator. She holds a law degree from India and has practiced law in India and Kuwait. Anusuya is a fan of rap music and enjoys a good cup of coffee in her free time. Currently, she is working on her novel, "Mr. Ivory Merchant".

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