Bay Journal

October 1995 - Volume 5 - Number 7

Air act would boost Bay cleanup

Full implementation of the federal Clean Air Act could cut the amount of nitrogen falling on the Bay watershed by almost a tenth, according to a new Bay Program computer analysis.

The analysis shows that pollution to the Bay could be cut even more if additional emission controls being contemplated to reduce the Northeast’s chronic smog problems are implemented.

On average throughout the watershed, the Clean Air Act could reduce nitrogen deposition by slightly more than 9 percent. But nitrogen is not evenly distributed as it falls, and in some places the law could slash the amount of nitrogen falling from the sky by up to 17 percent. ...

Hearings take place on draft Potomac tributary strategy, Interim VIMS head prefers muddy bottom to office and more…

Hearings take place on draft Potomac tributary strategy

A draft tributary strategy to reduce nutrient pollution in the Potomac River by focusing on volunteer efforts is being presented at six public meetings in Virginia in late September and early October.

Unlike the previous three Democratic governors, Republican George Allen is determined to advance the plan without additional regulatory controls.

“We’re very hopeful this can be done without mandates,” said Tom Hopkins, the state’s deputy secretary of natural resources. “This will be more difficult” than writing new laws, he said. “It’s hard work getting people to work together.” ...

After 10 years, Bay Program’s nonpoint source leader retires

Lynn Shuyler’s training to work on the Chesapeake Bay may have begun, in a sense, when he was growing up on a 1,000-acre farm in Rice County, Kansas.

“I fed cattle in snow storms, I hauled manure out,” he recently recalled. “The whole nine yards.”

Decades later, Shuyler was still doing work closely related to farms — and cattle. Since 1985, he served as the Bay Program’s nonpoint source control coordinator, a position that made him central in the development of runoff control initiatives that are critical to cleaning up the Chesapeake. ...

Doc’ Goddard, PA environmental leader, dies

Maurice K. Goddard, whose 25 years as Pennsylvania’s top environmentalist were crowned by the expansion of the state park system, died Sept. 14 of burns suffered in a fire at his Camp Hill home the day before. He was 83.

“It is with great sorrow that I heard of Maurice Goddard’s passing,” said former Gov. George M. Leader, who appointed Goddard secretary of forests and waters in 1955. “He was my dear friend and I shall miss him.

“He had a deep love of everything in God’s creation and he dedicated his life to preserving our natural resources because he was so strongly motivated in wanting them to be preserved for people living now and for future generations,” Leader said. “I shall never look at one of our state forests or at people enjoying one of our state parks without thinking of Dr. Maurice Goddard.” ...

EPA ship patrols Bay looking for air pollution

The USS Antelope once patrolled the coast of Vietnam, keeping a lookout for armed enemies. The same ship, now armed with computers and high-tech monitoring devices, recently patrolled part of the Chesapeake Bay looking for another enemy: air pollution.

The ship, which the EPA bought from the Navy for $1 in 1979 and renamed the OSV (for Ocean Survey Vessel) Peter W. Anderson, has been deployed in various waters in recent years to gather environmental data.

For three weeks in August, the 165-foot ship cruised downwind of Baltimore collecting data that will help scientists determine how much pollution from the large urban area is falling on the Bay. ...

New evidence points to meteor forming the Chesapeake

Evidence is mounting that the lower part of the Chesapeake Bay might have been formed by one of the world’s greatest natural disasters.

Scientists this week presented new evidence that a meteor slammed into the Earth 35 million years ago in that area, contributing to the formation of the Chesapeake.

“If it happened today, Washington would probably cease to exist,” said Christian Koeberl, one of a group of scientists who presented the new evidence Monday at a conference at the Smithsonian Institution. ...

Freshet may have reversed Bay’s nutrient trends

A preliminary review of recent Chesapeake Bay water quality monitoring data indicates that after years of declines, concentrations of phosphorus — a major Bay pollutant — increased during the past two years.

Also, the review indicates that levels of nitrogen in the Bay have increased.

Nitrogen and phosphorus are the two nutrients targeted in the Bay Program’s 40 percent nutrient reduction goal.

The likely reason for the increase, officials say, is abnormally high flows of fresh water into the Bay — or freshets — during the springs of 1993 and 1994. Those spring flows, caused by snowmelt and spring rains, were among the highest on record, flushing large amounts of sediment and nutrients off fields, lawns and streets into rivers, streams and ultimately, the Bay. ...

Research points to quick recovery potential for the Bay

If you had thousands of pounds of effluent, excess fertilizers and other wastes dumped on you all day, every day, all year, it might seem pretty hard to forget.

Fortunately for everyone interested in cleaning up the Bay, it seems that the Chesapeake is a lot more forgetful — and forgiving — than one might expect.

Certainly, it does not have the memory scientists once thought it had, and that’s good news.

The concept of “memory” in the Chesapeake is a reference to how long the Bay will “remember” some event. How long will it reflect the impacts of a hurricane, an unusual hot or cold spell, or other system-altering impact? ...

Loudoun County’s Scenic Creek Valley Buffer

The Scenic Creek Valley section of the Loudoun County Zoning Ordinance requires a buffer for any stream that drains more than 640 acres, or one square mile.

Measured from the streambank, the ordinance requires a buffer of 250 feet along the Potomac River; 200 feet along the county’s two state-designated scenic rivers, Goose Creek and Catoctin Creek; and 150 feet along other county streams.

The buffer requirement is in effect anyplace where its setback is wider than the existing floodplain. ...

Citizen campaign saved stream buffer plan in Loudoun County

A little more than two years ago, citizens in Northern Virginia’s Loudoun County were concerned that plans to require buffer strips along streams would never become a reality.

They fought back with education. They organized a symposium at the county offices to highlight the role that buffers — particularly forested buffers — play in protecting water quality.

When the dust settled, the county ended up with an ordinance that prescribed various buffer widths for its streams.

“We made such a fuss about it that, indeed, we did get the setbacks,” said Chuck Jones, a Realtor who chairs a special open space task force in the county. “It’s in place.” ...

Maryland cuts crab harvest by 20 percent

In a move to cut Maryland’s blue crab harvest by one-fifth, a joint legislative committee on Sept. 13 approved a compromise reached between Gov. Parris Glendening and watermen to protect the Bay’s dwindling crab population.

Beginning Sept. 15, commercial crabbers on the Bay were restricted to six days a week and recreational crabbers to three days a week. The hours for both will be further restricted, and the season will close Nov. 15 — six weeks early.

“Scientific data has clearly shown a decline in the Bay’s female blue crab population,” Glendening said. “I am pleased that the legislators unanimously agreed that now is the time to take action, preventing a more serious problem in the future.” ...

How Atmospheric Deposition Takes Place

Scientists have long recognized the basic process by which air pollutants can enter rivers, lakes and other water bodies. The steps are shown in the adjacent illustration.

  • First, pollutants are released to the air from a source, which may be natural or anthropogenic (i.e., created by humans). Anthropogenic sources include point sources, such as industrial smokestacks or any other fixed location that releases pollutants, and area sources, such as such as pesticide applications on agricultural fields and vehicle exhaust. Natural sources also can be classified as either point or area sources and include, for example, forest fires, volcanic eruptions, windblown dust and soil, and sea spray. Pollutants can be released either as gases or as particles.
  • Second, pollutants released to the air are transported away from their source to other locations. Depending on weather conditions and the chemical and physical properties of the pollutant, air pollutants may undergo physical and chemical changes while in transit.
  • Third, air pollutants are deposited to the earth, in most cases directly to a water body or to a land area that drains into a water body. Pollutants are deposited by “wet deposition” or “dry deposition.” In wet deposition, pollutants are removed from the air by a precipitation event such as rain or snow. Dry deposition occurs when particles settle out of the air and into water. Air pollutants can also enter a water body indirectly, by first depositing onto surrounding land or tributaries and then moving into the water body by other routes, such as stormwater runoff or inflow from tributary streams.

Current understanding of the details of each of these steps is limited, although it is growing as a result of recent scientific research. ...

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