Thursday, October 30, 2008

Desperate Chesapeake Bay watermen threaten to sue EPA

Environment News Service: Watermen in two states, the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, and five other parties today notified the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency that they intend to go to federal court to force the agency to require pollution reduction in the waters of Chesapeake Bay, the national largest estuary. Today's notice of intent to sue is required for any citizen lawsuit against the EPA to enforce the Clean Water Act.

"We are doing this because we're backed into a corner. We've all been preaching to clean the bay up, with no results," said Captain Larry Simns president of the Maryland Watermen's Association. "We're at a crucial point here. Unless we do something now we're going to lose the bay completely."

Scientists have determined that this year the bay suffered the fourth worst dead zone since 1985. Dead zones happen when nutrients from sewage treatment plants, agricultural runoff and other sources enter the bay and stimulate blooms of algae. When these algae die they sink to the bottom and decompose, removing oxygen from the water.

Dead zones have left too little oxygen in the bay over 10 months of the year, and in July, 40 percent of the bay's mainstem was affected. Lack of oxygen kills fish and blue crabs or drives them from their preferred habitat.

The Chesapeake Bay's crab population is near historic lows. As a result, Maryland and Virginia have had to severely limit the commercial crab harvest, putting hundreds of watermen out of work….

Rendition of Chesapeake Bay by Kmusser, Wikimedia Commons, under the Creative Commons Attribution ShareAlike 2.5 License

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