More research is needed to understand the effects that nearly imperceptible bits of plastic, called “microplastics,” could have on underwater life in the Chesapeake Bay, according to a report from an advisory committee of scientific experts.
In response to growing concern surrounding microplastic pollution, the Chesapeake Bay Program’s Scientific and Technical Advisory Committee (STAC) was asked by the Chesapeake Bay Commission—a tri-state legislative body representing Maryland, Pennsylvania and Virginia—to investigate the issue. The resulting technical report provides information on the fate and transport of microplastics, potential impacts on wildlife, treatment options and the urgency of the issue.
Estimates suggest trillions of pieces of plastic persist in surface waters around the globe, including in the Chesapeake Bay. At five millimeters or less in size, much of this pollution is classified as microplastic. A subset of this category is microbeads: plastic particles roughly the width of a strand of hair that can be found in products like face wash, cosmetics and cleaning supplies.
Although the panel found more information is needed to understand the impacts of microplastics on underwater life, research is growing. Among the concerns is the ability of microplastics to accumulate chemical contaminants from the surrounding water, potentially exposing aquatic plants and animals to harmful chemicals.
According to the report, the simplicity of removing microbeads from products has helped propel regulations like the federal Microbead-Free Waters Act of 2015, which requires companies to stop using the beads in their products by 2017. But the report stresses that microbeads are just one type of microplastic, and that solving the greater issue would require the management of more than microbeads alone.
For a close-up look at microplastics from the Chesapeake Bay region, view our photo essay.
The report, Technical Review of Microbeads/Microplastics in the Chesapeake Bay, is available on the STAC website.
Preventing livestock from entering streams could improve the health of both local waterways and the animals themselves, according to a new report from the Chesapeake Bay Commission.
When hoofed farm animals—such as cattle, horses, pigs, sheep and goats—have clear access to streams, they trample and erode the banks and bottoms of waterways, freeing sediment and nutrients to flow downstream to the Bay. Animal waste contributes additional nutrient pollution, as well as bacteria that can cause human health concerns.
“Livestock exclusion” is an agricultural best management practice (BMP) that uses fences, streamside buffers and alternative water sources to draw animals away from streams and wetlands. The practice benefits not only water quality but the health of the animals themselves: in operations that have installed fences along streams, farmers have reported decreases in injuries and disease in their herds. In the report, the Bay Commission details the benefits of livestock exclusion; describes current efforts throughout its member states of Maryland, Pennsylvania and Virginia; and looks at factors affecting the widespread implementation of these practices.
By lowering the amount of sediment and nutrients flowing to the Bay, practices like livestock exclusion help meet the clean water goals of the Chesapeake Bay Watershed Agreement, which encompasses the Chesapeake Bay Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL).
The report, Healthy Livestock, Healthy Streams: Policy Actions to Promote Livestock Stream Exclusion, is available through the Chesapeake Bay Commission website.
Nutrient credit trading could significantly trim the cost of cleaning up the Chesapeake Bay, according to a new study released by the Chesapeake Bay Commission.
Nutrient credit trading is a system that enables one pollution source to meet its pollution reduction goals by purchasing those reductions from another source.
The economic analysis showed that nutrient credit trading could save 20 percent to as much as 80 percent of costs to meet pollution reduction goals called for in the Chesapeake Bay TMDL, the federal “pollution diet” to clean up the Bay. State and local governments must reduce nitrogen and phosphorus pollution from farms, wastewater treatment plants, stormwater systems and other sources to meet these goals by 2025.
The study recommends that governments define trading rules and protocols, provide information and technical assistance, and ensure compliance and enforcement to maximize cost benefits and guarantee trading programs actually deliver pollution reductions.
To date, four Chesapeake Bay watershed states – Maryland, Pennsylvania, Virginia and West Virginia – have initiated water quality trading programs.
Visit the Chesapeake Bay Commission’s website to learn more about the study and download the full analysis.
Welcome to the latest installment of the BayBlog Question of the Week. Each week, we take a question submitted on the Chesapeake Bay Program website or a frequently asked question and answer it here for all to read.
This week’s question came from John, who asked: “What is the Chesapeake Bay Commission? Who are they and what do they do?”
The Chesapeake Bay Commission is a tri-state legislative body representing Maryland, Virginia and Pennsylvania. The commission was created in 1980 as a bi-state commission to help Maryland and Virginia collaborate and cooperate on Chesapeake Bay management. Pennsylvania became a member in 1985, after which time the Commission began advising each state's general assembly on matters deemed to be of Bay-wide concern.
The Commission also serves as the legislative arm of the Chesapeake Bay Program, advising each of the jurisdictions represented by the Bay Program partnership.
Since its establishment, the Commission has worked to promote policy in several areas that are vital to Chesapeake Bay restoration, including nutrient reduction, fisheries management, toxics remediation, pollution prevention, habitat restoration and land management.
The Commission has 21 members from the three states. Among those members are:
The chairman position rotates among the three states each calendar year. As of January 2011, Pennsylvania State Senator Mike Brubaker took over as Chairman of the Commission.
One of the Commission's main goals is to make sure that member states' common interests are thoroughly represented in regard to any federal government actions that may affect them. This has become a vital part of the process of developing the Chesapeake Bay Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) and Executive Order strategies.
To learn more about the Chesapeake Bay Commission, check out their About Us page.
Do you have a question about the Chesapeake Bay? Ask us and we might choose your question for the next Question of the Week. You can also ask us a question via Twitter by sending a reply to @chesbayprogram Be sure to follow us there for all the latest in Bay news and events.