Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Has the Bay Turned the Corner?

Levels of pollutants in the Chesapeake Bay dropped from 2009 to 2015, the Chesapeake Bay Program announced Monday.

Throughout the bay, nitrogen, phosphorus and sediment levels decreased by eight percent, 20 percent and seven percent respectively. In Maryland, those pollutants decreased about seven, fifteen, and 11 percent respectively.
So despite all the whining about Virginia's lack of cooperation with the Feds over the Bay cleanup They're doing a better job than Maryland? Whodda thunk?
"We're seeing a combination of indicators that things are moving in a positive direction," said Nick DiPasquale, director of the program.

The program attributes the decrease to pollution controls installed throughout the bay.
Water quality experts believe the decreased pollution comes from a reduction of nitrogen and phosphorus in the wastewater sector, lower nitrogen levels in the atmosphere because of the Clean Air Act and improved implementation of agricultural conservation practices, according to the program.

Upgrades in the wastewater treatment sector accounted for 41 percent of nitrogen reductions and 38 percent of phosphorus reductions in the bay between 2014 and 2015, according to the program. Large municipal wastewater treatment plants are removing more waste than was previously thought possible, DiPasquale said.
Those are big improvements. Now that they've shown they can do the impossible, make them do more. . .
From 2014 to 2015, water quality controls reduced nitrogen, phosphorus and sediment loads by three, three and four percent, the program said.
Those, on the other hand are small numbers, and easily within the range of year to year variability.

I was just down to the beach with Skye, and noticed that the water seemed exceptionally clear, although this is a time of the year before the big algae blooms are likely in our waters. Has the Bay really turned the corner for good, and begun to be consistently and perceptibly cleaner? Stay tuned.

In the meantime, allow me to direct you to EPA's next worry, microplastics. They can't show they are bad, but they're going to study the hell out of them just in case. Microplastic pollution in the Bay poses risks, report finds
Tiny bits of “microplastics” that wash into the Bay may endanger aquatic life in the estuary and its tributaries, but more research is needed to better understand the threat, according to a report from scientists and policy makers released Monday.

Although federal legislation was approved in December that addresses a portion of the issue, the report from the Chesapeake Bay Scientific and Technical Advisory Committee said the law did not eliminate the need to find new ways to reduce microplastic pollution and recommended additional legislation to address the issue, which is of growing concern for waterways around the globe.

Microplastics – pieces of synthetic polymers smaller than 5 millimeters – are found in water bodies everywhere, with more than 5 trillion pieces of plastic floating at or near the ocean surface, according to a recent estimate. Researchers have found the plastic bits in the Chesapeake Bay and its tributaries. Plastics have been found in shellfish, fish, sea salt — and even in beer.
Five trillion? That's almost one for every four dollars of the US National Debt. . .

Nowhere in the article will you actually find any reference to any harm being done by the "microplastics" in field, although if you hit organisms with enough of them in the lab, it does have effects. The dose makes the poison, as Paracelsus said.
Most of the plastic that ends up in marine and estuarine waters comes from land-based sources — from littering and poor waste management practices — and is often conveyed by stormwater. The smallest microplastics slip through waste treatment plants into the discharge, while the larger ones are removed along with other solids. But the runoff of biosolids applied to agricultural fields provides another pathway for microplastics and microbeads to enter streams.
So there it is, it's the urban areas again.

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