Efforts to improve the water quality of the Chesapeake Bay have fallen far short of goals set 40 years ago, and a new report by researchers suggests that achieving those goals remains elusive in the short term.
Members of the Chesapeake Bay Program’s Scientific and Technical Advisory Committee, or STAC, concluded in a report that while there has been progress since goals to reduce pollution were designed 40 years ago, it has been incremental.
The 133-page report released by the group offers a range of findings about why progress toward those goals has been slow and why water quality improvements “are proving more challenging than expected.”
Among those findings are that pollution reductions from farmers have been insufficient, plans need to better take into account climate change and different habitats within the watershed with unique characteristics, and future conditions will impact the Bay differently in years to come.
The report showed that bay water quality standards were reached in 27% of the bay in 1985 but that by 2020, those goals were reached in just the mid-30% range.
The report, entitled “A Comprehensive Evaluation of System Response,” suggests that past strategies for achieving improved water quality should be re-evaluated, and the focus should be on living resources, meaning the living organisms that make the bay their home. Overpopulation of the Bay Region did not make it onto the list of possible issues affecting the failed cleanup effort.
Your acknowledgment that overpopulation of the Bay Region was omitted from the analysis was excellent. With that comes the need for additional sewage handling. There are still many sewage discharge plants under the control of the Hampton Roads Sewer District that are under order to stop polluting and to comply with current standards. The sewage plant behind the old “Nassawadox Hospital” was not in compliance for years and may not be still. Their fix was to continue not meeting DEQ standards and to buy the “Magic sewage credits” to allow operation that is considered pollution under current standards. And pointed out during the change of bulk cargo ship anchorage from east of the CBBT to opposite Cape Charles, there is no effective way to monitor and enforce compliance with Bay pollution standards. And I have yet to hear during all the computer modeling presentations any consideration of the periodic failures of sewage treatment facilities during adverse weather events that result in huge amounts of raw sewage flowing into the Bay from plants directly on the Bay or on its tributaries such as the failures of the Binghamton NY plant on the Susquehanna. Maybe the “computer geniuses” are “barking up the wrong pipe.”