Clearer water reported in bay

Published 6:29 pm Saturday, January 16, 2016

Water in the Chesapeake Bay area is getting clearer, and that’s a good thing for the prospect of it eventually getting cleaner, too.

That’s the word from the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, which recently published a series of aerial photos on its Facebook page showing sand, tree stumps and vegetation visible through the water.

None of the photos was from Suffolk, but, as the saying goes, a rising tide lifts all boats.

Email newsletter signup

“Most of the water clarity improvements we saw were middle-bay area,” said Chris Moore, Virginia senior scientist for the Chesapeake Bay Foundation. “But that doesn’t mean that improving water clarity is not a good thing, no matter where it is.”

Moore said clearer water improves the growth of underwater vegetation, because more sunlight can reach it. Healthy and plentiful vegetation filters out pollutants and puts oxygen back into the water.

The vegetation also serves as a habitat for young marine life, reducing predation. It also acts as a buffer and slows down wave energy in storm events, reducing erosion at the shoreline, Moore said.

A press release from city spokeswoman Diana Klink said the clearer water “could be due to a period of dry weather experienced during this past summer as well as due to pollution reductions in the water.”

She said the Chesapeake Bay Foundation’s findings — though none were in Suffolk — are consistent with Suffolk Department of Public Works’ monthly monitoring and lab results on the Nansemond River and other tributaries.

Elizabeth Taraski of the Nansemond River Preservation Alliance noted that many areas of Suffolk waterways still are closed to shellfish harvesting. Those decisions are made based on 30 months of data.

In Suffolk, portions of the Nansemond River and Chuckatuck, Streeter, Hoffler, Bennett’s, Knotts and West creeks are closed to shellfish harvesting due to high levels of pollutants.

However, Taraski agreed that the clarity of the water — though maybe not its pollutant load — has improved because of the relative lack of rain.

“If there’s no rain, you’re not getting that runoff,” she said. Rain also stirs up sediment on the bottom of the body of water.

Taraski encouraged citizens who live on the water to respect the 100-foot buffer between the waterway and any impervious development, whether it be a shed, swimming pool or paved walkway.

“The system of trees and shrubs can act as a filter,” Taraski said. “It filters the water as much as it possibly can before it gets into the waterways.”

She also encouraged pet owners all over to scoop their pet’s waste and dispose of it properly.

“Those are the two main best practices that individuals can do with ease,” she said. “We’re asking everyone to start those practices or to be consistent in those practices.”