Chesapeake Takes Brunt Of Post-Lee Damage

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Polluted Bay
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Alex DeMetrick has been a general assignment reporter with WJZ...
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BALTIMORE (WJZ) — The damage caused by last week’s torrential rains isn’t over. It’s just moved on to a new target.

Alex DeMetrick reports the Chesapeake is now taking the brunt of what’s washed off the land.

Blue sky and sun above, but beneath the Bay Bridge, the view is anything but perfect. Down at water level, what Tropical Storm Lee swept off the land is now riding the currents of the Chesapeake. It’s everything from trees to trash, carried on chocolate-colored water.

“This is top soil farmers don’t want to lose. This is stuff that’s come off construction sites. You look at a mess like this, you can’t single out anybody. This is us. This is 21st century human beings and all our activities,” said John Page Williams, Chesapeake Bay Foundation.

Much of it is washed downstream on the Susquehanna River. There are pollutants you can’t see like nitrogen and phosphorous, which cause destructive algae blooms carried by a force strong enough to rip up immense mooring balls while tearing loose critical underwater grasses.

Williams has been monitoring the water below, where it’s separated into three layers. Tropical Storm Lee’s runoff sits like a cap on top.

If it stays, “then the decayed bacteria down there in the deep water will suck the oxygen right out of it,” Williams said.

But this debris is more than a threat to the environment.

“It’s a real hazard. There’s stuff out here that can break this boat to pieces,” Williams said.

And it stretches for miles down the heart of the bay.

How much impact the runoff has on the bay may not be known until next spring, when longer-term effects on water quality are measured.

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