Bay Journal

Topics: Pollution

Bay’s ‘dead zone’ expected to be bigger than average this summer

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A year after experiencing its best water quality in decades, the Chesapeake Bay is expected to have a larger than average “dead zone” this summer, where fish, crabs and shellfish will struggle to breathe.

Researchers with the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science (UMCES) and the University of Michigan are forecasting that the volume of oxygen-starved water in the Bay will grow to 1.9 cubic miles, enough to nearly fill 3.2 million Olympic-sized swimming pools.

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About Pollution

Nutrient pollution, the nitrogen and phosphorus that originates from farms, wastewater treatment plants, stormwater runoff and air pollution, is a major source of pollution to the Chesapeake. In the Bay, they spur growth of algae blooms which block sunlight needed by important underwater grass beds. When the algae dies, they are decomposed in a process that depletes the water of oxygen needed by other species.

Sediment eroded from the land and streambanks degrades stream health and reduces water clarity. Toxins and other chemical contaminants also pose a direct threat to fish throughout the Bay and its watershed.

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