Harbor fish kills, odor not the norm

The Sun got it right in its recent editorial entitled "Dollars and scents," (June 1) discussing the economic impact of the declining health of our harbor and our bay.

As algal blooms and resulting fish kills happen year after year, citizens and regulators start to think that it's a normal phenomenon, caused only by high temperatures and extreme weather events. But we cannot pretend that this is normal, particularly when the science presents an urgent situation.

Once the recent algal bloom began, the water samples taken in the harbor showed an increase in levels of chlorophyll and nutrients. As the algae then decomposed, samples showed a drastic decrease in levels of dissolved oxygen, down to zero in many locations. This dead zone resulted in the belly-up fish and crabs that we observed during Memorial Day weekend.

Just as the people of Baltimore thought they had finally gotten past the fish kill, we spotted a massive sewage spill in the Inner Harbor this week. Pedestrians, boaters and anyone looking out onto the Inner Harbor could not ignore the putrid scent of sewage and the gray-colored water. Early data shows high levels of ammonia — a known indicator for sewage contamination.

When MayorStephanie Rawlings-Blakeand Gov.Martin O'Malleykicked off the city's Star Spangled Sailabration recently, no one acknowledged the sewage-filled water directly behind them. No one mentioned the high levels of bacteria and toxic pollutants found in sewage or the health threats they impose when people contact the water.

The health of our families and our economy both depend on the health of our harbor. We must let the science dictate all policy and decision-making regarding our waterways, including the pollution diets regulating the harbor and Chesapeake Bay. The public must be informed when there is unhealthy contamination in our waterways.

We cannot continue to ignore the obvious signs, especially when the data — and the smell — speak for themselves.

Tina Meyers, Baltimore

The writer is Baltimore Harbor Waterkeeper.

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