Agricultural Runoff IS the Main Problem

By: Kelsey Garletts

                      Pollution in the Chesapeake Bay is an issue that is prevalent in Virginia and Maryland areas where the bay flows into. However, for my issue I want to narrow it down to the pollution to the bay area that specifically touches Virginia Beach. Virginia Beach is my home and a very beautiful landscape that I don’t want to see destroyed. Since the bay is a large watershed that many different rivers and streams filter into, there are several types of pollution entering the bay. For my focus on pollution and the bay the pollution type I am going to discuss into a deeper more in depth level is agricultural runoff. If you are uninformed what exactly agricultural runoff is, or have not read my past blogs then agricultural runoff is defined as the water flow that occurs when the soil is infiltrated to full capacity and excess water from rain, meltwater, or other sources flows over the land. Agricultural runoff enters steams and rivers from all over the state that eventually enter the Chesapeake Bay.

                The main issue with agricultural runoff is the types of fertilizers farmers are using on their crops. The fertilizers they are using are chemical ones which contain large amounts of phosphorus and nitrogen. Although the bay does need phosphorus and nitrogen to survive, large amounts that the bay is receiving are slowing damaging the bay and its wild life. According to the Chesapeake Bay program, these fertilizers contribute 42 percent of the nitrogen, 58 percent of the phosphorus and 58 perfect of the sediment that enters the bay. From 2010 estimates from the EPA, chemical fertilizers, in specific, account for 17 percent of the nitrogen and 19 percent of the phosphorus entering the bay. When this pollution enters the bay it forms algal blooms that are large and block sunlight from entering the bay. This decreases the amount of oxygen that forms and kills the underwater grasses. These areas in the bay have been labeled “dead zones”, where no oxygen forms, and are the locations where fish and shellfish also die and decompose. Aside from blocking oxygen, algal blooms also raise pH level in the waters which spreads and kills more bay life and prospers the growth of parasites. Besides killing bay life, pollution also affects these species in different ways. Pollution causes the suppression of behavioral and immune systems in fish, the development of intersex conditions in fish and impaired reproduction of fish eating birds.

Besides the species inside of the bay being affected the locals living around the bay are also affected. What was once a beautiful place to walk and relax is slowing turning into a dead area where dead fish are being washed up, the waters are slowly turning dark brown, and even people can become ill from the high levels of nitrogen and phosphorus. Tourists and locals that come to the bay come for a relaxing vacation or just a fun day, they don’t come to get sick and be disgusted by the dead species and dark waters.

There are two programs out there who are doing all they can to help the bay. One is the Chesapeake Bay Program and the other is the Chesapeake Bay Foundation. These two websites are vital for my information and are great places to go if you want to help clean the bay. The bay can’t clean its self and people need to be informed of the issue of agricultural runoff before it gets worse.

Works Cited

Valente, Jenna. “Ten Invasive Species of the Chesapeake Bay.” Chesapeake Bay Program. Chesapeake Bay Program, 22 Apr 2013. Web. 27 Sep 2013. <>.

“Chemical Contaminents.” Chesapeake Bay Program. Chesapeake Bay Program, n.d. Web. 27 Sep 2013. <>.

Staff, . “Dead Zones.” Chesapeake Bay Foundation. Chesapeake Bay Foundation, n.d. Web. 27 Sep 2013. <>.

Baker, William, and Tom Horton. “Runoff and The Chesapeake Bay.” Black and White Photographs. 16.6 n. page. Web. 4 Oct. 2013. <

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