The Chesapeake bay is recovering from a historic drought, but it is still under threat from toxic contaminants that could harm its health, according to a study published Monday.
Researchers at the University of Maryland’s Environmental Health Institute found that water quality is declining and that elevated levels of toxins in the bay are a threat to the health of people who live and work near the waterway.
The study’s findings are an important step forward in the fight to clean up the Cheshire Bay, a 2,000-mile-long estuary located in Virginia’s Chesapeake watershed.
“The bay is not fully recovered, and its recovery is still fragile,” said Dr. Steven C. Trowbridge, who led the research.
“The bay needs to be more resilient to climate change, more resilient in terms of the chemicals and contaminants that are in it, and it needs to do so in a way that does not harm people who use the water.”
Trowbridge and his colleagues examined the water quality in the Chesire Bay, which includes much of southern Maryland, for the past 15 years.
The bay’s total surface area is about 6,000 square miles.
That’s about the size of Rhode Island, but more than two-thirds of the bay is covered by water, according the Chesilcs Baykeeper.
“As we’ve recovered from the drought, and as we’ve done water quality analysis, the water is getting healthier, more diverse, and the water that is flowing out of the water system is more diverse,” Trowbridle said.
The Baykeeper is a nonprofit conservation organization that works to protect water and land by protecting rivers and wetlands, and is based in the U.S. The group says it monitors water quality at its sites in North Carolina, California, New York and Virginia.
The findings are in a new report by Trowbradles research team, published in the journal Science Advances.
Trowbridles team looked at water quality data from two locations in the watersheds watersheds Chesapeake and the Susquehanna River, which runs through the bay.
The water samples were taken in the spring and summer of 2018.
The team also sampled the bay’s surface water.
The researchers found that there was a dramatic drop in water quality levels in the waters of the two sites in the first half of the year, and a significant drop in the second half of 2018 as well.
Trows team found that pollution levels were dropping dramatically from the first quarter of 2018 through the second quarter of 2019, with water quality decreasing more than 70 percent.
“There’s been a dramatic increase in pollution,” Trows study said.
“In the first year, we found pollution at levels of less than 1,000 parts per billion, but the levels in 2018 were as high as 2,300 parts per million.”
Trees are the main source of pollution in the Bay, with more than 95 percent of the pollution coming from human activities.
Trees can also affect the water, which is important for drinking and for wildlife, but researchers say it is unclear what causes the pollution.
Scientists believe the chemicals that are emitted by wood burning and other fossil fuels are a main contributor to the pollution, and that the pollutants may be linked to the algae blooms that occur in the water.
Trees, especially tall ones, also produce greenhouse gases, and have been implicated in causing climate change.
The Baykeeper says that by 2050, nearly two-fifths of the Cheskees water will be unfit for human consumption.