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Posted at 10:30 AM ET, 09/14/2011

Hurricane Irene and tropical storm Lee bruise the Chesapeake Bay

From NOAA: “... total suspended matter data acquired by the NASA Aqua satellite and processed by NOAA CoastWatch. Before (August 23rd) and after (September 11th) images show stark differences in the amount of suspended matter (silt, mud, debris) found in the waters of the Chesapeake and its tributaries. Water conditions caused the modification of the Nation’s Triathlon held in DC on September 11th due to poor water quality, currents, and debris.” Larger image (NOAA Environmental Visualization Laboratory)
Thanks to the deluges from hurricane Irene and the remnants of tropical storm Lee, portions of the Chesapeake Bay watershed received more than 32” of rain over the past two weeks according to NOAA. The result: a historic rush of polluted stormwater into the Bay and its tributaries.

In today’s print edition of the Post, Darryl Fears writes:

Drenching rains from remnants of Lee produced the second-largest water flows from the Susquehanna River into the bay since Hurricane Agnes in June 1972. Flows from Agnes were measured at more than 1 million cubic feet per second. A major snow melt in 1996 caused a flow of more than 900,000 cubic feet per second. The peak flow from Lee was more than 750,000 cubic feet per second.

The flows constituted an expressway for pollution.

Fears describes all sorts of bad stuff washed into the Bay:

Satellite imagery of the Chesapeake Bay on August 23 and September 13. ( NASA )
* Sediment and junk that had collected behind the [Conowingo] dam [in northeast Md.] for years was released into the Susquehanna.

* More than 500 million gallons of diluted sewage

* ...runoff from farms washed in livestock manure and fertilizer containing nitrogen and phosphorous, and the flow from city and suburban streets, lawns and rooftops contributed more nitrogen and phosphorous, as well as garbage.

Or, as he describes it in short: a “pollution cocktail”. The concern is this pollution will create a “dead zone” this fall or enhance next summer’s. Fears’ article discusses these unpleasant prospects in additional detail.

Related link: Reducing stormwater pollution

By  |  10:30 AM ET, 09/14/2011

Categories:  Environment, Floods, Latest

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