Living the Class

Taking a class at the James River one reads a lot about the science that goes into a system of that nature. What biodiversity is, how nitrate levels and pollution run off affect the ecosystem, but not everyone really understands what that means. Over our fall break we saw exactly what goes on in the Potomac River and the  Chesapeake Bay Watershed  and how it effects every living thing within it.

Throughout our trip we took two boat rides; one on the Potomac River and one on the Chesapeake Bay.  On these trips we looked at a variety of factors that go into the overall health of the water  and especially the  ever present human factor. Personally it was appalling to me that, both scientifically and visually. the water exiting a sewage treatment plant was the cleanest that we saw.  The strides made by the Clean Water Act of 1972 have done wonders reducing the outflow pollution but it had never occurred to me that those waters would actually be healthier than any other point in the watershed. Possibly even more alarming with the nitrate levels in the Chesapeake Bay being over 35 times the deemed “healthy level”.

At the conclusion of our trip I find myself wondering how can we fix this and it all comes down to education and awareness.  No one can dispute that nitrate level of 35 ppm is higher than what it should be at one part  per million.  Most people couldn’t explain to you why its bad to have rediculously high nitrate levels. That high nitrate levels increase algae growth therefore shutting out sunlight from the rest of the water, destroying underwater habitats and using absurd amounts of dissolved oxygen in the water, effectively suffocating the fish and other wildlife who live within the habitat.  I myself did not fully understand what was happening and why it was so detrimental to the ecosystem. But I took the programs, I learned. and now I know and I understand.  If we want any hope of reversing or reducing our impact on the environment that needs to be the primary focus. We need to teach people what’s going on and show them perlious unrestrcited actions will be to the ecosystem.

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