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Stormwater problem is real

FertilizerChemical IndustryChesapeake Bay Foundation

Many thanks go to Alison Prost of the Chesapeake Bay Foundation for her explanation of the stormwater fee ("Beyond 'rain tax' rhetoric," May 1).

I would like to add a little historical background. When Europeans first visited the Chesapeake Bay, it was vibrant with aquatic life galore. Over the centuries, it was exploited with oyster beds being destroyed by "traditional oyster collection practices" and unsustainable fishing of the best fish here and along the Atlantic Seaboard. But the real deathblow to the bay came with Hurricane Agnes — not because of the influx of freshwater, but because the pesticides, fertilizers and other waste that washed from the greater Chesapeake and Susquehanna River watershed ended up killing the native underwater fauna forever.

Those grasses were vital for the safety of baby and soft-shell blue crabs until they were large or hardened enough to fend for themselves. While the recovery of rockfish stocks has been applauded by some, the rockfish and now drum fish eat the baby crabs that have no protection from predators because stormwater runoff destroyed their natural habitat.

This damage was compounded by the suburban sprawl, which included all the tract homes having perfect lawns that were marketed as only possible with lots of fertilizer, etc. While the current building code requires rain water to be channeled into the water processing system, in some locales, officials now require that roof gutters be disconnected from the sewer systems with rain water going into aquifers (probably until the sewer systems can be updated and expanded to handle all water disposal). That is why most blue crabs are actually imported from the Gulf of Mexico.

Jack Boak, Baltimore

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