Study Points to Dam as Main Source of Bay Pollution - WBOC-TV 16, Delmarvas News Leader, FOX 21 -

Study Points to Dam as Main Source of Bay Pollution


ROCKVILLE, Md. - A new study shows eliminating pollution to the Conowingo Dam will improve the Chesapeake Bay's health more than any other policy currently implemented in the state.

The nonpartisan Maryland Public Policy Institute estimates that removing all 172 million tons of sediment pollution behind the dam would dramatically improve the Bay's health at a fraction of the cost of other Bay cleanup efforts. The dredging effort would cost an estimated $4.2 billion, the institute says -- compared to the $14.4 billion the state plans to spend on Bay cleanup efforts -- while removing one of the principal threats to the Bay's water quality, wildlife, and economic potential.

"The Conowingo Dam is the missing link to Maryland's Bay cleanup efforts," said Christopher B. Summers, president of the institute. "Not only would a dam cleanup plan strengthen the Bay's health, but it would also strengthen the 'green collar economy' by creating jobs in the name of the Bay restoration. We hope this study sheds light on the enormous possibilities of simply turning our attention north to the Conowingo Dam."

The institute attributes periodic storms to the Dam's pollution. When Tropical Storm Lee hit the Mid-Atlantic in September 2011, nearly 19 million tons of Bay-killing sediment were released from the dam over five days; that's 26 times greater than Maryland's average annual Bay sediment load, according to the institute. The upper Bay's oyster harvest plunged 95 percent that year, demonstrating that failure to dredge the dam can devastate Maryland's aquatic life and the thousands of Marylanders who depend on it for their way of life.

The new study will be the topic of discussion at a forum Tuesday evening at Washington College in Chestertown. "A Better Way to Restore the Chesapeake Bay," will feature Maryland Department of the Environment Secretary Robert M. Summers, Ph.D., and leading environmental experts and observers in the Bay area.

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