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Cloud lingers over MD paper mill’s impact on Potomac

A lit cigar in his mouth and a fly rod near his knee, Harold Harsh rows his blue raft down the North Branch of the Potomac River, past the smokestacks of the Luke paper mill in Maryland and the forlorn towns along the West Virginia bank. The water is so clear he can count the stones on the bottom — until he reaches the plant responsible for treating the paper mill’s waste.

There, the air smells like rotten eggs. The water changes to chocolate brown, bubbling up from five discharge points across the river. For more than a mile, it will remain this way, with trout skirting the cloudy effluent but not darting into it. Casting his fly outside the brown zone, Harsh’s line catches a native brook trout and then several large, silvery rainbows. Even so, the experienced guide said he doesn’t often bring paying customers here.

“You never know what it’s going to look like until you get here,” he said. “Some days it will look like this — and this is not bad — and some days it will be 10 times worse. What we’re seeing here is what they say they can’t clean out because they will go bankrupt trying to keep this water clean.”

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Chesapeake Bay Week on MPT

The Bay Journal is a partner in the second Chesapeake Bay Summit, a discussion about key issues in the Bay restoration hosted by Maryland Public Television during Chesapeake Bay Week. This year, the Summit aired on April 27 and focused on the challenges of growth and development. Watch it here, and read the following articles related to the 2015 Summit:

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