Published February 19, 2010
Conservation , National Aquarium , News , Uncategorized
Tags: baltimore harbor, blizzard, chesapeake bay watershed, inner harbor, pollution, snow, storm drains
If you live in a mid-Atlantic state you have probably seen crews tackling the huge job of removing more than 36 inches of snow that fell during two blizzards. In a city like Baltimore, packed with houses, cars, businesses and sidewalks, where do you put all that snow? For this very unusual snow situation, Baltimore has turned to a very unusual option: after getting the required permission from the Maryland Department of the Environment, they have dumped snow into the Harbor.
This has raised questions and debate about whether dumping the salt-laden snow into the Harbor will damage the health of the Harbor or affect the Bay. The answer is yes, but the reason may surprise you.
Dumping snow in the Harbor increases the pollution, but interestingly, dumping snow won’t necessarily be more environmentally harmful than a series of heavy storms. We are in the Chesapeake Bay Watershed, where all precipitation – including melted snow – runs into storm drains, and eventually into the Harbor and the Bay. Along the way, that water picks up pollutants – dirt, oil, car exhaust and other sources – as it flows across our yards, sidewalks, roofs, driveways and streets into the nearest storm drain and downstream to the Harbor. Even melted snow or rain from surrounding counties makes its way to storm drains that all lead to the Harbor. This water does not go through some kind of water purifying system before it goes into the Harbor. It goes straight into the Harbor with its pollutants, trash and debris.
Continue reading ‘Snow or rain, it all flows downstream’
Yesterday, the City of Baltimore honored its most beloved mayor and former Maryland governor, William Donald Schaefer with the unveiling of a statue to memorialize his distinguished political career in Maryland. The statue lives in the middle of Baltimore’s Inner Harbor, which is fitting since Schaefer’s most notable accomplishment was the transformation of the Inner Harbor from an industrial shipping area to a multi-million dollar tourist attraction and the gem of Baltimore.
The National Aquarium was one of the first additions to the Inner Harbor. In the mid-1970s Mayor Schaefer conceived and championed the idea of an aquarium as a vital component of the redevelopment. William Donald Schaefer is truly the Aquarium’s hero because if wasn’t for him, the National Aquarium may not exist today. Dozens of staff members and volunteers, as well as the Aquarium’s first board president, Frank Gunther, attended the ceremony yesterday to pay tribute to the man who brought our Aquarium to life.
Schaefer’s idea for an aquarium may have been his best idea for the City of Baltimore. In 1976, residents supported the Aquarium by voting for it on a bond referendum, and the groundbreaking for the facility took place August 8, 1978. The Aquarium’s world-class status was recognized by the United States Congress, which granted the facility national status. The National Aquarium in Baltimore opened to the public exactly three years later on August 8, 1981. Today the Aquarium is huge economic driver for the city and is the most visited destination at the Inner Harbor.
Schaefer is also known for his hilarious dip in the Aquarium’s seal pool, which has turned out to be his most famous photo op! The mayor lost a bet with a developer who said the National Aquarium would not open on schedule. When the initial date passed, the mayor put on his bathing garb, grabbed a Donald Duck squeaky, and jumped into the seal pool that used to be outside of the Aquarium. The pictures live on in Aquarium history. Many see Schaefer as he is represented in the beautiful new statue, but at the Aquarium, this how we like to remember our hero:
If you have been to the beach or out on a boat recently you have probably encountered a jelly or two, perhaps even more. This is the time of year that jellies are most prevalent in the mid-atlantic region. So why do we see so many of them during the summer??
Jellies are found in most bodies of water, including the Atlantic Ocean, the Chesapeake Bay, and even in Baltimore’s Inner Harbor. In fact, some Aquarium employees saw a bunch of comb jellies in the harbor earlier this morning. In this region, most jellies are seasonal. The greatest variety of jellies are found in the lower bay, in the coastal bays and, offshore in the Atlantic Ocean were salinities are higher. Some of the more common species include:
- Moon Jellies, (pictured to the right) found in the Lower Bay and Atlantic Ocean. In the summer months the remains of moon jellies can often be found washed up on the beaches, but they rarely sting people.
- Atlantic Sea Nettles, found in the middle and lower bay and seen in late spring, summer and early fall and the most likely to sting you. They sting thousands of beach-goers each season!
- Comb Jellies, found throughout the bay and ocean year-round but most commonly seen in the warmer months. Comb jellies do not have the ability to sting.
- Lion’s Mane Jellies, found in the bay from late November through May, also known as the winter jelly and also deliver a powerful sting.
Continue reading ‘Jellies, jellies everywhere’
The water in Baltimore’s Inner Harbor is giving off a very fishy odor. Wondering why? If nutrient levels are high enough, warming waters can sustain increased numbers of microscopic plants or algae. Nutrient runoff from our recent spring rains fueled a brown algae bloom in the inner harbor giving the water a mahogany color last week. Algae has a short life span, and as it dies oxygen is consumed and is no longer available for other organisms in the water column. At this point, fish and other animals that cannot escape the low oxygen zones die. These are commonly referred to as “dead zones” which cause fish kills, and the bad smell over the weekend. The bacteria then devours the dead fish killed by oxygen depletion, fueling more bad odors.
Some animals, like jellies require very little oxygen and manage to live through these dead zone events. This is part of the reason jellies populations are thriving in bodies of water around the world.
These excess nutrients that cause the algae blooms can come from a variety of sources including fertilizer, storm water runoff, and even atmospheric deposition. So what can be done about it? The National Aquarium is actively working to improve the water quality of the Bay by restoring vital habitats like tidal wetlands. These habitats remove excess nutrients, help prevent flooding and provide important habitat to the animals that live there. You can volunteer – check it out!