Improving Water Quality

Video created by: Mark Amorim


Efforts Underway to Lower Pollution Loads, Improve Water Quality in Chesapeake Bay

By: Nick LaRosa

Despite failing to meet water quality standards, the restoration of the Chesapeake Bay has been going on for decades, according to Marel Raub, Pennsylvania Director of the Chesapeake Bay Commission.

“Our primary actions are going to be those that we’ve already been doing, focusing on nutrient and sediment deductions from agricultural land use, from wastewater treatment plants, from urban land use and improved stormwater management,” Raub said via Skype.

As a whole, an implementation plan is already currently in place to cover the five main sectors of pollution, which are wastewater treatment plants, urban storm water, agriculture, septic systems and air deposition, according to Jennifer Dindinger, Regional Watershed Restoration Specialist for the University of Maryland’s Sea Grant Extension.

Courtesy of the Chesapeake Bay Program

Courtesy of the Chesapeake Bay Program

Whether wastewater or stormwater, precautions are now being taken in the Chesapeake Bay to prevent issues in the future.

“Traditionally, stormwater and wastewater all went to the same place, but then when it rained a lot the wastewater treatment plants would overflow, so most places in Maryland have now separated their storm water from the wastewater,” Dindinger said during a telephone interview. “Now the storm water goes into the storm drains and is piped into the stream, or if there isn’t a storm system it just flows into the stream from the nearest conduit.”

While many of the issues in the Bay pertain to pollution and sediment loads, it is unique in the sense that no other watershed in the country is debilitated by the same types of issues.

“There are local issues regardless of where you go across the country depending on the particular uses of any particular watershed,” Raub said. “It’s really hard to say how the Bay does or does not compare to other watersheds across the country.”

The Chesapeake Bay region, according to Raub, is ahead of many other watersheds in the country in regards to progress. However, that does not mean that other watersheds can take the same course of action, mainly because of the variety of water-related problems across America.

“We are in a unique situation and the rest of the country is looking to this region to understand how we will manage the Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) and how we will reduce our load reduction, and if not, what the consequences would look like,” Dindinger said.

The TMDL currently acts as a guideline for the amount of nutrients and sediment that the Bay can handle. Dindinger says that that there are more nutrients and sediments in the Bay than it can handle, and that the TMDL acts as a limit for what can be done to help alleviate the amount of pollution. However, toxins and trash pollution are not included in the confines of the load limits – only nitrogen, phosphorus and sediment.

“There have been efforts, especially regarding agricultural and water treatment plant improvements, that have been happening for decades,” Raub said. “We just need more of them and we really need to make an improved effort at addressing urban land usage and storm water management.


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