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What Is Causing the Chesapeake Bay to Be Unhealthy?

Last updated on January 23, 2022

The Chesapeake Bay is an imperative waterway to ecosystems which spread across the East Coast. Not only is it the largest estuary in the United States, it’s home to over 3,600 different species, provides drinking water, fishing, boating, and many other recreational activities to the millions of people living on and around the bay.

The Chesapeake Bay is a vital space for the many different groups of species which rely on the estuary for life, and additionally is beneficial for the economy & wellbeing of the people living around it. This being said, it also has numerous issues that pose detrimental threats to the bay’s overall health.

High levels of nitrogen, phosphorus, and excessive sediment are the top three major polluters of the Chesapeake Bay, and all connect back to one major issue: human activity.

High levels of nitrogen and phosphorus are caused by man-made issues such as wastewater, septic tanks, and runoff from cities and towns. This in turn causes large algae blooms. When there’s an unhealthy amount of nutrients in the water, such as nitrogen and phosphorus, it directly impacts algae as it causes them to grow at an alarming rate. Larger amounts of algae block sunlight from reaching the ocean’s bottom- ultimately impacting dwelling species, such as oysters, another imperative species to the Chesapeake Bay. Algae also absorb oxygen from the water, which species like crabs and oysters need in order to survive.

Furthermore, sediment in the water contributes to the turbidity of the water. The higher that the turbidity is, the less sunlight is able to reach the ocean’s floor, impacting what levels of sunlight dwelling species are able to receive. Sediment consists of particles of sand, dirt, and clay that make water more “murky.” The majority of sediment is caused by coastal erosion, which can be a natural process, although the majority of it is attributed to human activity.

So how can we aid this issue, and help to restore the Chesapeake Bay back to its original healthy state? If you live near the Chesapeake Bay, you can advocate for the estuary by telling your local congressmen and senators that you care about this issue, and that they should support legislation that will improve the overall health of the Chesapeake Bay. Along with this, you can easily attend public meetings/ hearings. Finally, the most critical step we can all take to aid this issue is greatly reducing our trash and pollution, in our homes, communities, and schools. Saving the bay is an attainable goal if we all work together to live more healthy sustainable lives, and produce less waste.


“Chesapeake Bay.” National Wildlife Federation,

“What Is Killing the Bay?” Chesapeake Bay Foundation,

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