By Alex DeMetrick

ANNAPOLIS, Md. (WJZ) — After showing signs of improvement during the past few years, the Chesapeake Bay’s health took a hit in 2018.

It’s what washes off the land that impacts the bay and last year record rains did a lot of washing.

Runoff from record rains brought fertilizer, animal and human waste, trash and sediment pouring into rivers and eventually the bay.

Chesapeake Bay Foundation President Will Baker said Monday the bay “suffered a massive assault last year,” when large amounts of debris were flushed into the bay, mostly from Pennsylvania. The bay’s grade sank from C-minus to D-plus, which is the first decline of a grade in a decade.

“We had record breaking rains in the Chesapeake Bay watershed, and the trouble with that, is not only does the salinity go down, but a lot more pollution comes into the bay,” Baker said.

The Chesapeake Bay Foundation’s bay report card for 2018 gives the bay an overall grade of 33, or D+.

That’s a point lower than 2017.

“Increased storms bring more freshwater into the bay, that brings more pollution — nitrogen and phosphorous and other things. It also brings more sediment into the bay,” Baker added. “And those three — nitrogen, phosphorous, and sediment — are the systemic pollutants of the bay.”

Grades of “F” for nitrogen and phosphorous pollution, were somewhat balanced by passing grades for wetlands and forest buffers, which absorb harmful nutrients.

Underwater grasses, which have been increasing, also seemed to have weathered sediment runoff.

Blue crabs received a grade of “B”, but oyster populations remain at historic lows, and a solid “F”.

Still long term efforts to reduce pollution kept a bad year from becoming worse:

An annual report on the Chesapeake Bay says pollution from unusually heavy rains last year contributed to the first decline in a decade in the overall health of the nation’s largest estuary.

But Baker said there is some good news. He said the bay appears to be developing resilience that may help it overcome long-term damage.

“One of the good news signs is that there’s increased resilience in the bay. That makes us hope, makes us believe, that the impact of all this freshwater, all this additional pollution, will not be as damaging long-term, as it might have been say 10 years ago,” Baker said.

The 2018 State of the Bay report says bay grasses remain intact. Additionally, recent studies show an improving trend in underwater dead zones.

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The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Alex DeMetrick


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