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April 27, 2011
Chesapeake Bay health declines a bit last year

Polluted rain water draining into the Chesapeake Bay caused the health of the state’s largest estuary to decline in 2010, according to an independent scientific analysis released Wednesday by the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science.

The bay scored a C-minus on the center’s annual EcoCheck report card, down from a C the year before — the first decline since 2003. The runoff was affected by natural forces and human activities such as farming and urban and suburban activities, the researchers said.

“One of the main drivers of annual conditions in Chesapeake Bay is river flow related to weather patterns,” said UMCES-EcoCheck scientist Dr. Heath Kelsey. “While efforts to reduce pollution have been stepped up in recent years, nature overwhelmed those measures in 2010 and temporarily set the bay back a bit.”

Kelsey said some variability in scores is to be expected in such a complex ecosystem. Though, Robert M. Summers, acting Maryland secretary of the environment, said the drop shows the importance of controlling pollution from all areas.

Grades declined in nine regions, remained unchanged in three and improved in two, including Virginia’s James and York rivers. Two regions scored an F for the first time since 1996, the Patapsco and Back rivers and Lower Western Shore regions.

The data in the report come from state and federal agencies, and analysis is conducted by the Maryland center and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Chesapeake Bay office.
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