This Week in the Watershed

Lafayette River bloom-1200
Algal blooms, such as this one by Hampton Roads, Virginia on the Lafayette River, are caused by excess nutrients such as nitrogen. Photo by Christy Everett/CBF Staff.

We all love clean water, but sometimes the path to achieving it is not all that "sexy." From talk of septic systems to land use management, to excess nutrients, the science and policy of clean water can be rather tedious and boring. One of the excess nutrients that fall in this category is nitrogen. While discussion of nitrogen might give us flashbacks to a boring science class, a la Ben Stein in Ferris Bueller's Day Off, it has a massive impact on clean water. Today, roughly 300 million pounds of polluting nitrogen reaches the Chesapeake Bay—about six times the amount that reached the bay in the 1600s. This excess nitrogen leads to a bevy of problems, including feeding algal blooms that block sunlight to underwater grasses and suck up life-supporting oxygen when they die and decompose leading to "dead zones."

Nitrogen comes from a variety of sources, including sewage treatment plants, animal feed lots, and polluted runoff from crop land, urban, and suburban areas. The inescapable truth is that we all produce nitrogen through everyday choices. Collectively, these make a huge impact on our Bay and its rivers and streams. Everything from how we get around to the food we eat contributes to the pollution affecting our region. But it can be tough to know just how exactly your day-to-day life affects the health of the Bay and its rivers and streams.

All of this is inextricably linked to the Chesapeake Clean Water Blueprint. If we want to leave a legacy of clean water to the next generation, the Blueprint needs to be fully implemented. And to rid our waters of excess nutrients such as nitrogen, we each need to recognize our individual impact and make changes. 

This Week in the Watershed: Nitrogen Tool, Bacteria Testing, and A Mysterious Nutrient

  • The release of a new online tool allows citizens to identify the amount of nitrogen they produce. (UPI)
  • Environmental nonprofits are helping restore communities not only through improving the environment but by providing ex-convicts jobs. (Bay Journal)
  • Maryland's Harford County is implementing a multifaceted approach in their stormwater remediation efforts to reduce polluted runoff. (Baltimore Sun—MD)
  • Bacteria testing conducted by CBF throughout Maryland also found unsafe bacteria levels, including fecal matter in White Marsh Run 400 times higher than safety standards permit. (Perry Hall Patch—MD)
  • Bacteria testing conducted by CBF throughout south-central Pennsylvania has found bacteria levels unsafe for swimming. (Patriot News—PA)
  • Scientists are attempting to solve the mystery of the ultimate destination of excess nitrogen from agricultural application. (Lancaster Farming—PA)

What's Happening around the Watershed?

September 10

  • Gambrills, MD: Come help the Chesapeake Bay Foundation and partner organizations plant shrubs and wetland grasses at the former Naval Academy dairy farm! Sunrise Farm is an 800 acre farm, the largest organic farm in the State of Maryland. Volunteers will plant a newly graded wetland in what was a wet less productive corn & soy-bean field. 

September 13

  • Richmond, VA: The Richmond VoiCeS Course, an eight-week adult education class meeting on Tuesdays, starts September 13! This course will cover the history of the James, urban and rural runoff issues and solutions, practical methods to improve water quality in your backyard, and the critical importance of citizen action to saving the bay. Plus, there are field trips! 

September 16-18

  • Oxon Hill, MD: During this three-day event (September 16-18), we will build concrete reef balls designed to help restore fish habitat in Smoots Bay on the Potomac River. The reef balls will be relocated to the bottom of Smoots Bay, where they will be intermixed with various woody structures to provide an ideal habitat for various fish species, such as our native largemouth bass. Come for one day or all three! Building reef balls is a fun and exciting way to help restore our Chesapeake Bay. 

September 17

  • Trappe, MD: Help CBF take out the trash! Join us at Bill Burton Fishing Pier State Park to help make the Choptank River cleaner and safer. This is a family friendly event, but all children must be accompanied by an adult. Groups are welcome! Please wear clothes you don't mind getting dirty, and bring sunscreen and water. 
  • Annapolis, MD: Join us for an upcoming trip aboard the CBF skipjack Stanley Norman. While aboard, you'll be invited to help hoist the sails or simply enjoy the view! You will leave with a better understanding of oysters and their role in keeping the Bay clean as well as what CBF is doing to restore the oyster stocks to save the Bay. 

September 24

  • Annapolis, MD: Head out on the water for a morning of fishing, learning, and fun! Spend the morning aboard the Marguerite in search of whatever is biting! Our experienced crew will provide all the knowledge and equipment necessary—just bring your enthusiasm! Gear and licenses are provided. 
  • Annapolis, MD: Join us for an upcoming trip aboard the CBF skipjack Stanley Norman. While aboard, you'll be invited to help hoist the sails or simply enjoy the view! You will leave with a better understanding of oysters and their role in keeping the Bay clean as well as what CBF is doing to restore the oyster stocks to save the Bay. 
  • Dorchester County, MD: Join CBF for a paddle! We will put in our canoes on Beaverdam Creek, and from there explore the waters surrounding Taylors Island Wildlife Management Area and Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge. This area is a prime example of a healthy tidal Eastern Shore waterway, replete with large expanses of tidal marsh and pine forests. The wildlife is dominated by various species of bird life, including nesting bald eagles, ospreys, herons, and ducks. The paddle is comfortable and peaceful, offering up-close views of herons fishing in the shallows and ducks nesting in the many trees along the banks. This is a paddle for people of all skill levels.  

—Drew Robinson, CBF's Digital Media Associate

Drew Robinson 90x110

Drew Robinson

Digital Advocacy and Outreach Manager, CBF

Issues in this Post

Polluted Runoff   Algal Blooms   Dead Zones  



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