CONOWINGO, Md. - Millions of gallons of storm water from Sandy have been unleashed from the Conowingo Dam, and the last time it gushed through the gates at these levels, it wiped out crab, striped bass and half of commercial waterman Don Pierce’s business.
"If this happens again, I'm going to be out of business. My grandchildren... my children… everybody's going to be affected... my employees," said Pierce.
Citing a federal study by the U.S. Geological Survey, some local and state leaders are pointing to the glut of pollution that comes from major storms---sediment, phosphorous and nitrogen, as the primary culprit that’s slowly destroying the Chesapeake Bay.
State Senator E.J. Pipkin (R-District 36) says costly measures imposed in Maryland mean little, if the problem isn’t addressed above the dam.
"The state's been focused on the farmers, been focused on the counties, been focused on property owners and making them spend significant amounts of dollars to clean up a small amount of sediment, and yet you can see here today, we have a significant problem upstream,” said Pipkin, “We need to focus on this as well."
The senior scientist with the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, Beth McGee, says while the dam contributes to the pollution in the bay, it’s not the only source, and ignoring Maryland’s runoff would be a mistake.
"This is absolutely a red herring. We have cleanup plans," said McGee, "If we did nothing and we just waited for them to---quote---"fix the dam", we would suffer. Our local waters would suffer, local streams, rivers... the bay would take its toll. Maryland is contributing pollution to the bay."
While both sides agree that major storms are responsible for as much as 40% of the sediment flowing into the bay, environmentalists say Pennsylvania has begun work to reduce that load above the dam, and other states to the north must be lobbied to follow suit.
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