Excess nutrient pollution causes massive algae blooms in rivers and water bodies. When the algae die and decompose, they consume oxygen in the water, creating dead zones that cannot support aquatic life. Excess sediment also prohibits sunlight from reaching underwater vegetation and chokes out other bottom-dwelling organisms when settling. Bay grasses die off due to blocked sunlight and crabs and oysters die due to a lack of oxygen.
Air pollution from vehicles and power plants, toxics from industrial facilities, and forest and wetland loss are also threats to the Bay. It’s no wonder the Chesapeake Bay is listed as dirty or “impaired” under the federal Clean Water Act.
The Bay states of Maryland, Virginia and Pennsylvania, along with the District of Columbia and the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), have known about the serious decline of the Chesapeake Bay for 25 years. Since 1983, they have participated in the regional Chesapeake Executive Council whose mission is to guide policy for the restoration of the Bay.
Two major watersheds of the Bay are in Pennsylvania and make up 40 percent of the entire Bay watershed.
Realizing the failure to meet these goals, a new plan to put the entire 64,000-square-mile watershed on a pollution diet has begun. This pollution diet, known as a total maximum daily load or TMDL, sets limits on the amount of pollution waterways may receive and still meet water-quality standards. In addition to the pollution restrictions, there is a plan of action that sets enforceable and measurable goals to track restoration progress.
Public participation is critical to the development of a TMDL. Although the federal government typically takes the lead, individual states create local cleanup plans and the public has an opportunity to respond and comment. Local insight can provide a broader picture of what is happening in local watersheds.
This coalition of over 150 regional non-profits and funders is seeking federal leadership to improve the health of the Chesapeake Bay and all of its waters.
The goal of this coalition is clear -- clean water.
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