Report: Nation's biggest estuary hit hard by pollution

In this Aug. 1, 2018, file photo, debris washed into the Chesapeake Bay from record rainfall accumulates around a sailboat in Annapolis, Md. An annual report on the Chesapeake Bay says pollution from unusually heavy rains in 2018 contributed to the first decline in a decade in the overall health of the nation's largest estuary.

ANNAPOLIS, Md. — Heavy rains that brought additional pollution downstream last year contributed to the first decline in a decade to the overall health of the Chesapeake Bay, according to a report released Monday.

The bay’s health grade sank from a C-minus in 2016 to a D-plus in the 2018 State of the Bay, a biennial report issued by the non-profit Chesapeake Bay Foundation.

The bay scored a 33 out of a possible 100 after scientists measured 13 indicators in three categories, including pollution, habitat and fisheries. The report cited record rains last year that brought large amounts of pollutants downstream, mostly from Pennsylvania, but also from other regions.

“Simply put, the bay suffered a massive assault in 2018,” said Will Baker, the group’s president. “The bay’s sustained improvement was reversed in 2018, exposing just how fragile the recovery is.”

Beth McGee, a senior scientist at the foundation, which has released the report on the bay’s health since 1998, also highlighted the effect of the rains, which washed enormous amounts of debris from the Susquehanna River in Pennsylvania south into Maryland waters and into the nation’s largest estuary.

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