By Ellie Henderson
The Chesapeake Bay has been an important and historic water way for hundreds of years. It is the largest of 130 estuaries in the United States, which are some of the most productive environments on the planet since they provide a wide variety of habitats that support thousands of species of animals and plants. The bay’s watershed goes through the states of New York, Delaware, Virginia, Pennsylvania, and Maryland. With the amount of pollution that is in the bay, the area is almost uninhabitable by animals and people.
The Chesapeake Bay has been struggling with its pollution for decades and has been on the EPA's "dirty waters" list since 1910. Pollution in the bay began because of the excess nutrients and sediment that fell into the bay from the urban areas surrounding the bay, such as Clagett Farm and Coastal Bay Farms. Nitrogen and phosphorus from sewage, farm and suburban runoff, and air pollution can fuel the growth of algae blooms and formation of fish-stressing "dead zones” in the bay. Justin Rix, a science teacher at Glenelg High School says that, “Fertilizer, road salts, trash, cattle farms, heavy metals from cities, and pharmaceutical chemicals that are being flushed down toilets”. Mr. Rix has been studying the bay and its progress with his students so he can give correct and accurate information. The bay has had pollution problems for a long time and as our society grows, the pollution rate is rising as well.
The bay used to be home to many different and diverse animals compared to its present ecosystem. Humpback whales and manatees used to migrate to and from the bay, but now those animal populations are falling (Chesapeake Bay Foundation). Such animals left because they could not adapt or survive in the conditions of the bay. Specifically, the water does not supply suitable sustenance for the animals and the water is not clean enough for them to live in. Now, the animals that can survive in the bay are those that can survive in conditions with dirty water and eat small crustaceans, including animals such as crabs, oysters, turtles, birds, and striped bass. Crabs and oysters are what the Chesapeake Bay is famous for, but now with overfishing limiting the population and pollution making the animals sick, their numbers are dropping at alarming rates.
The nation has been aware of all of these bay problems for decades and are finally making changes. The Chesapeake Bay Foundation has made huge strides to change the water quality of the bay. The organization plants trees near streams, which flows into the bay and prevents sediment from going into the bay. It also keeps the water cool, which creates the optimal environment for bass and trout: two species of animals that used to live in the bay. Lastly, the foundation creates man-made oyster reefs, which provide a safe place for oysters to grow. The organization makes these reefs because the natural reefs are becoming uninhabitable and are being torn down by boats.
Also, the people at Glenelg are making a huge impact on the quality of the bay to improve it. Jessica Montminy, a science teacher from Glenelg High School believes that, “People are more aware about the quality of the bay and what they can do in their everyday lives to improve it”. Since more people are aware of the consequences to pollution and how their everyday lives add to the problem, people are more aware of what they can do to improve the environment rather than destroy it. Mrs. Montminy is one of the teachers in charge of the watershed project at school, this project teaches students about their own watershed and what ways their school is contributing to the amount of pollution to the bay. Mrs. Montminy spends much of her own time researching how the bay is currently doing and how Glenelg’s environment is contributing.
The Chesapeake Bay is an important waterway in the United States and it has been struggling in the recent decades. The water quality has dropped immensely, which has driven out animals, plant species, and created dead zones. In recent years, locals have become much more aware of the bay’s condition and have been trying to improve it. Hopefully one day the bay can be restored to its original beauty and healthy state.