By: Kelsey Garletts
Thousands of years ago the Chesapeake Bay was formed from melting ice caps and river runoffs. Approximately 5,000 years ago was the first oysters began to colonize in the bays waters. It wasn’t until the 1860’s when everything began going downhill. Pollution, the scary, scary word, first came into play around 1860 when people began building sewage systems that sent waste run off directly into the bay. Not only was that a pollution issue but also the newly formed coal burning industries blew mass amounts of smoke into the air eventually seeping pollutants into waterways.
It wasn’t until the 1900’s when this pollution was noticed. How? The popular oyster population was decreasing rapidly. At first the reason seemed unknown then questions began to form. What was causing this? Scientists began testing and researching exactly what human activity was doing to the bays health.
This research seemed pushed aside for a few years while more cities grew and more wastewater and storm water systems kept being built, which were constantly dumping the runoff into the Chesapeake Bay. However around 1910 people decided to put a stop to the pollution and built wastewater and storm water filters to clean the water before entering the bay.
This solution seemed fixed for a while until America began to grow rapidly. More and more industries were being built and more and more Americans minds steered away from the bay and onto industry. The 1940s introduced a new pollution to the waterways. FERTILIZER. American became reliant on crops and money from crops. Crops seemed much more important than keeping the bay clean. The fertilizers people were now using on their fields and lawns were actually causing more damage to the bay. Around this same time the idea of “fishing” increased and became very popular and a new industry for America to take on. America didn’t realize that if our water isn’t healthy then this industry would not prosper.
1950 scientists began discovering some very interesting things in the bay. “Dermo” and “MSX” were found and were defined as diseases that kill oysters. Once these diseases were found Clean Water Acts were created to help maintain the bay and prevent diseases from spreading. Although polluted runoff was still entering the bay and still are entering the bay.
Where are the pollutants coming from today? As unsurprising as this is they are still coming from runoff and fertilizers. Chemical pesticides that are in these fertilizers, which are used to kill bugs and weeds, are now entering the bay and killing the health of the bay. These pesticides kill the immune systems of fish, harm the development of intersex conditions in fish, and impair the reproduction of fish eating birds.
This issue is very prevalent around the tidewater region but yet seems to be ignored by many. Pollution to the Chesapeake Bay dates back a few hundred years and still today the bay is being polluted. In order to save our industries and prevent human illness something needs to be done.
“Bay History.” Chesapeake Bay Program. Chesapeake Bay Program, n.d. Web. 19 Sep 2013. <http://www.chesapeakebay.net/history>.