August 30, 2011

Hurricane Irene affected Chesapeake Bay shellfish

The news about Hurricane Irene's torrential rains overwhelming sewage systems and releasing millions of gallons of nasty stuff into Chesapeake Bay tributaries was big on the "EWWWW Factor." And just in time for our long-delayed ten day sail up the Bay.

Many of Maryland's sewage treatment plants are still antiquated, mixing sewage and rain water in the same pipes. In Baltimore County, 12 pumping stations overflowed last weekend, releasing more than 13 million gallons of yucky stuff. Because of a 1997 lawsuit filed against the city of Baltimore by EPA and Maryland regulators, that city is now spending about $1.5 billion dollars replacing or fixing about 250 miles of its decaying pipes.

Virginia has done a bit better upgrading our wastewater systems, but this remains a regional problem because numerous tributaries from four states feed the Chesapeake.

In advance of Hurricane Irene, the Maryland Department of the Environment banned all harvesting of oysters and other shellfish until September 3 because of the likelihood that heavy rains flushed sewage and contaminated storm water (e.g. animal and farm waste) into the Chesapeake Bay.

Virginia also halted shellfish harvesting until September 3 in our portion of the Chesapeake Bay and along parts of the Eastern Shore after Hurricane Irene, although crabs and fin fish are "unaffected."

No crabcakes this weekend for me, just to be on the safe side. And we'll still need to dodge all those crabtraps.