Saviors and Sinners in Chesapeake Surveys

When considering the Bay's health problems, an easy mental image is factories pumping filth from their pipes. Or smokestacks huffing pollution that alights on the water. Or leaky sewage pipes and treatment plants.

Then we think of government crackdowns coming to the rescue.

Truth be told, people living along and near the Bay play a much greater role creating pollution than we like to admit. That is especially the case as the "we" continues to swell - to a staggering 16 million in the Chesapeake Bay watershed.

Likewise, we the people - and not government agencies - must play a larger role in preventing pollution. That's why we're heartened by volunteer efforts along the Bay, such as the Great Herring Bay Stream and Shore Survey on Saturday, Oct. 16, and the South River Survey on Nov. 6.

In these and other surveys organized by Tributary Strategy Teams in their regions, volunteers will be dispatched by foot and by boat to identify sources of pollution. Teams will look for open sewers, overflow points, erosion, in-stream construction and other barriers to fish migration and any "unusual" conditions such as chemical smells.

This Saturday, volunteers begin their six-hour day at 9:30am at the Deale Elementary School.

Another kind of survey - a public opinion poll - recently identified ways that people routinely and thoughtlessly damage the Chesapeake by generating Bay-choking nutrients and nitrogen.

The poll of 733 people from Maryland, Virginia and Pennsylvania taken by the non-profit Center for Watershed Protection found that one-fourth of Bay-area households over-fertilize their lawns. Just 10 percent bothered to test their soil to see if they needed fertilizer at all.

One-fourth of those responding said their septic systems had passed their design life of 20 years, and roughly the same amount said they haven't followed routine maintenance.

Unfortunately, 30 percent of the septic system owners did not agree that a connection exists between septics and Bay quality.

One of the more interesting and troubling findings dealt with dogs. About 41 percent of Chesapeake Country folks have dogs, which is no surprise. But of those, over one-third admit to never collecting their pet's droppings.

We might have mumbled this common response had the polltaker called: "He goes in the woods." But our favorite reply was this one: "It's just a small dog."

Given the size of the Chesapeake, we all might consider ourselves small polluters on tiny tracts with little dogs. But our sins add up - and so can our collective efforts to atone.

| Issue 41 |

Volume VII Number 41
October 14-20, 1999
New Bay Times

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