Volume XI, Issue 21 ~ May 22-28, 2003

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Burton on the Bay | Chesapeake Outdoors | Sky Watch | Tidelog
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Chesapeake Outdoors by C. D. Dollar

The Enemy Is Us

After even just a quick scan of Monday’s papers, it’s hard not to get depressed about what we’ve done to our waters. A Baltimore Sun article reports another potentially dangerous toxic situation has been unearthed at Aberdeen Proving Ground — highly probable given past history.

The testing grounds that border Kings Creek, a tributary of the Bush River in Harford County, has the awful distinction of being an Environmental Protection Agency Superfund site. That’s a sanitized way of saying it is one of the nation’s most toxic areas. As a result of decades of experiments, some really nasty stuff is buried along the shoreline. Such sites have contaminated the land, polluted the Bay and put people’s health in jeopardy.

The bizarre silver lining, according to the Sun article, of this most recent find is that scientists believe that it could reveal a significant source of mercury contamination in the creek’s sediment, which officials could then clean up. But not cheaply. Costs to remove toxics from the area would run from $24 million to $27 million a year, which is a hefty price to pay for mistakes of the past.

Yet there were also a couple optimistic stories. Take Joe Stewart, who last week swam the Patapsco River in a noble effort to bring attention to that river’s contaminated condition. Last year, Stewart raised about $5,000 for several local watershed groups, so his efforts are certainly commendable.

The Patapsco ranks 26th among the nation’s most toxic waters, a well-deserved reputation due to the high levels of toxics and hard metals in its sediments. State health officials advise people not to eat crabs and fish caught in the river; many do, however, mainly out of necessity for sustenance.

In the mid 1990s, I ran field trips from the Inner Harbor past Fort Carroll, and while I was occasionally amazed by the aquatic life in the water, you’d never catch me swimming in it. (Except for the time a net wrapped my propeller … a long story).

A story that ties these two together comes out of the Baltimore Business Journal. Two leaders in their respective fields — the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and Chesapeake Bay Foundation — are working together to help policy makers better understand the link between a healthy environment and healthy people.

This collaboration could do several things, including educating us to how reducing sewage pollution may directly improve our health.

This year marks the 20th anniversary of the historic Bay study that was the impetus for the first Bay Agreement in 1987. Today, we’re in Year Three of the Chesapeake 2000 agreement that set the next benchmarks for the Bay’s recovery by 2010. Forward-thinking decisions and strong leadership by the key Bay states and the federal government could help give us less bad news about the Chesapeake.

Fish Are Biting
Last week, the locust trees reached full bloom during a full moon, which were two indicators that season’s first crab molt was underway. My biologist friend from Tidewater, Virginia, said the soft, valuable crustaceans were thick as thieves in the grass beds.

On May 16, Maryland rockfish regulations changed to two fish per person per day with a minimum size of 18 inches; only one of those fish can be over 28 inches. Big croakers are being caught in the shallows of Tangier Sound, and the season’s first red drum are showing up as well.



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Last updated May 22, 2003 @ 1:43am