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Chesapeake Bay News

Archives: December 2008


New Online Calculator Assesses Your Nitrogen Footprint

Ever wonder how much pollution you contribute to the Bay and its rivers? The Chesapeake Bay Foundation (CBF) has launched a new online tool to help you find out.

The Bay Foundation’s Nitrogen Calculator uses information about your home to assess how much algae-producing nitrogen your family sends each year to the Bay or your local river. As you enter details about your sewer system, electricity use, and travel and lawn care habits, the calculator comes up with a yearly “nitrogen footprint” for you and your family.

“We hope this new tool will encourage people to think about the choices they make and take actions that will reduce nitrogen pollution across the watershed,” said CBF Senior Scientist Dr. Beth McGee.

One way Maryland residents that use septic systems can help reduce pollution to the Bay is to upgrade their system to one that removes more nitrogen. The Maryland Department of the Environment is currently offering free upgrades to nitrogen-removing systems.

Here’s some other ways you can help reduce nitrogen pollution to the Bay:

  • Don’t fertilize your lawn.
  • Plant trees and shrubs, which absorb airborne nitrogen and slow polluted runoff from your yard.
  • Pick up after your pet.
  • Reduce the amount of miles you drive.
  • Install a rain garden or rain barrels to capture runoff from your downspout


Invasive Zebra Mussels Found in Susquehanna River

Zebra mussels have been found for the first time in the Maryland portion of the Susquehanna River, according to the Maryland Department of Natural Resources (DNR).

Zebra mussels are small, invasive freshwater mussels native to the Caspian Sea. As zebra mussels grow, they encrust boat bottoms and clog municipal drinking water systems and power plant intakes. A study by New York Sea Grant showed that zebra mussels cost the power industry $3.1 billion from 1993-1999.

In addition to economic losses, zebra mussels cause ecological damage by killing native mussels and filtering too much plankton from the water. The presence of zebra mussels has also been linked to declining duck populations.

While zebra mussels spread rapidly with natural river currents, they are most often transferred between water bodies by humans. According to DNR, recreational boaters can unknowingly carry zebra mussel larvae in their bilge, minnow buckets or on trailers.

Boaters can help stop zebra mussels from spreading to other rivers and lakes by:

  • Washing down boat hulls.
  • Cleaning bilges.
  • Removing aquatic vegetation from props and trailers.
  • Limiting transfer of boats from one water body to another, particularly from the Susquehanna River to other areas.

Read more from DNR about zebra mussels in the lower Susquehanna River.

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