Drought and heat good for the Chesapeake Bay

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This summer the Chesapeake Bay has some of the cleanest water it has experienced in a long time, and the lower pollution is being attributed to a mild winter, dry and hot spring and some of the hottest summer days on record.

The Chesapeake Bay receives a tremendous amount of attention related to ways to clean the water, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency forcing clean-up measures beyond state mandates and farmers being blamed for nutrient pollution.

Last summer reports were that dead zones, or low-oxygen water areas where fish and plants do not survive, were throughout the bay, but this year without water to wash pollution off streets, dissolve excess lawn fertilizer, cause manure runoff or dislodge field soil and fertilizer, the bay has lower pollution and nothing like the dead zones of last year, according to an article in the Washington Post newspaper.

The simplified explanation for the general public of what has not been happening this summer was provided by Darryl Fears in the Post article. “Nutrient pollution feeds algae blooms that grow and die quickly, decomposing into a thick black goo. Microbes eat decomposed algae during summer and suck out oxygen in the process. Dead zones usually dissipate in September.”

Low oxygen dead zones covered about 12 percent of water volume in Maryland’s portion of the bay in June of this year compared with about 30 percent last year, according to the newspaper quoting of Bruce Michael, director of resource assessment service for the Maryland Department of Natural Resources.

There is hope that dead zones will not occur as much in the future based on measures that have already been taken to limit pollution, even when more normal rainfall and temperatures occur. Fears quoted Donald Boesch, president of the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science, as saying, “The bay is responding and should respond the way our models tell us. We have to recognize that there is lag between what we do on land and what happens in the bay.”

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