For a countless number of painful years, Tom Fisher, now professor emeritus at the Horn Point Laboratory of the UM Center for Environmental Science, didn’t have much good to say about the Choptank River’s ecological health. Year after year, the Horn Point Lab researcher would need to share increasingly alarming news about the Choptank’s vital signs and its devastating impact on the Chesapeake Bay’s ecosystem. It was not a pretty story.
But that didn’t stop Tom from somberly collecting data every year to document the decline of the river, including data points provided by USGS gauging station near Greensboro and MD DNR, and assess for himself how much damage had been done over the past year by looking at phosphorus and nitrogen numbers.
But in the last few years, those numbers have started to change. Rather than see the anticipated decline in water quality, the trend line was reversing. For the first time in decades, nitrogen and phosphorus concentrations were decreasing. But why?
The scientist in Tom kicked in to answer that question. In keeping with the suspense of a murder mystery, Fisher probed and explored evidence to solve the riddle. And, as it turned out, the heroes of the story turn out to be none other than the Clean Air Act of 1970 and the Chesapeake Bay Restoration Act of 2000. These public investments provided funds to reduce smokestack emissions and upgrade wastewater treatment plants.
Years after the legislation was passed, the impact of these legislative actions on the Bay’s health now show their fingerprints: improving water quality in the Choptank River at the Rt. 50 bridge.
The Spy spoke to Tom by Zoom last week to talk more about these promising results.
This video is approximately four minutes in length. For more information about UM Center for Environmental Science – Horn Point please go here.