Strange Looking Barge in Sharptown Is Researching Invasive Speci - WBOC-TV 16, Delmarvas News Leader, FOX 21 -

Strange Looking Barge in Sharptown Is Researching Invasive Species Prevention

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The barge tied up in Sharptown (Photo:WBOC) The barge tied up in Sharptown (Photo:WBOC)

SHARPTOWN, Md.- A small barge in a small town is having a global effect.  Some in Sharptown have been wondering what a large, strange looking barge is doing in town.  The barge is a mobile laboratory, studying ways to prevent the spread of invasive species by large cargo and cruise ships.

"Ballast water is used to balance out the amount of cargo that a ship has, so if they are unloading cargo, then they would take on water to ensure the ship doesn't lose balance," said Katherine Ziombra, a researcher aboard the vessel.

It's possible that the water taken aboard ship in a foreign port contains invasive species that could be introduced to the Chesapeake Bay when the ballast water is dumped out.  Scientists aboard the barge are studying methods to remove organisms from the water to allow for clean discharge.

"The regulations for the coast guard say that these systems have to be tested in a low salinity freshwater environment, which is what we are testing here in Sharptown," said Ziombra.

"We use the natural water here because it is very healthy and there are plenty of critters here.  We bring it in, and we subject half of it to a test so it's treated and then the other half goes into a control tank.  We leave it for a couple of days and then we discharge it and we look at the water to see what's in it," said Janet Barnes.

The barge was created five years ago, and is the only one of its kind in the United States.  It is operated by the University of  Maryland Center for Environmental Science and supported by the Maryland Port Administration, U.S. Maritime Administration, and N.O.A.A.  In those five years, scientists aboard say they have made progress.

"It's really neat to see how these treatment systems, we're all learning together how to best work with this new coast guard regulation," said Ziombra.

The barge will remain tied up in Sharptown for four more weeks.

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