The Chesapeake Bay is having a crisis with ever increasing pollution affecting the quality of the water and the appeal of the bay.
The Chesapeake Bay has been inundated with nitrogen as a result of agricultural runoff, septic system leakage, runoff from roadways, development, residential and commercial fertilizers and air deposition from factories. The vast majority of the nitrogen problem contributing to the Chesapeake Bay water pollution is from agricultural sources. Over 40% of all the nitrogen and 50% of all the phosphorus that runs into the Chesapeake Bay comes from agricultural sources.
Many large scale feed lots and farms such as poultry farms, pig farms, and cattle farms are located in the Shenandoah and Potomac watershed area and contribute to the water pollution problems in a big way.
On Marylands Eastern shore chicken outnumber humans 1000 to 1 and the manure and wastes that come from such massive chicken production in such a relatively small area places a heavy burden on the water by adding a considerable amount of nitrogen into the ground water and the Chesapeake Bay through run off. The large farms of pigs, cattle and chickens contribute more than 150% more waste that contribute to the water pollution than humans do.
Nutrients such as nitrogen and phosphorus are vital for the growth of living organism in the Chesapeake Bay and all bodies of water. But if there is too much nitrogen and phosphorus in the water it causes serious problems resulting in water pollution.
The most pressing problem that causes pollution in Chesapeake Bay’s water is excessive amounts of nitrogen. Too much nitrogen leads to what is called a dead zone where algae build up and blocks sunlight from getting to the underwater grasses.
The algae consumes so much oxygen that the oxygen levels of the water are reduced resulting in the death of fish and shellfish. The algae also prevents the sunlight from shining through to where the underwater grasses grow causing them to die, which further reduces the amount of oxygen in the water. This is a vicious cycle that must be dealt with to clear up the Chesapeake Bay problem.
The Chesapeake Bay used to have a vast amount of grasses surrounding it that acted as a filter to protect the Bay from pollution. As a result of land development many of these filters have been stripped away and now pollution flows into the Bay undiluted to further add to the Bay’s water situation.
The Chesapeake is now so heavily polluted that it ranks among the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) dirtiest waters. On a scale from 0 to 100, the Chesapeake Bay scored only a 27 due to the Chesapeake Bay water pollution problem.
To protect the problem and reverse the Chesapeake Bay water pollution manure must be controlled, cover crops need to be planted, and buffer strips must be installed and maintained to better protect the Bay.