The amazing thing about all this is that in Maryland, sewage spills less than 10,000-gallons do not have to be reported. Yep, you would be amazed at how many 9,999-gallon spills take place throughout the state.
An observation from an old guy: When I was relatively young, just 23-years-old, boats didn't have holding tanks. You pumped the handle, the human excrement was chopped up and discharged directly into the bay. There were lots and lots of boats then, mostly concentrated in an area between Baltimore and Annapolis. This was 1963, a time when this newly married kid had a 10-year-old, 30-foot powerboat that set me back a whopping $2,500. At the time, all the public beaches were open, the water beneath the Chesapeake Bay Bridge at old piling 57 was clear enough to see bottom in 20 feet of water in October. Nestled between the bridge pilings were huge clusters of succulent oysters. All you needed to get them was a pry bar, some scuba gear, a wet suit and a burlap bag. You could fill the bag in less than 30 minutes.
Keep in mind that there were times during the summer that as many as 1,500 fishing boats clustered over the Dumping Grounds at the upper end of Kent Island where they chummed with a slick consisting of crushed and ground soft shell clams. The water never seemed to get dirty, even with all those boats chumming and pumping their poop into the bay. For some unexplained reason, Mother Nature seemed to be able to handle this with no problem.
The next part of the equation is we developed an insatiable appetite for shellfish--all kinds of shellfish. And, back then, there were essentially no regulations pertaining to harvest limits. Consequently, we rapidly wiped out every filter-feeder in the confines of Chesapeake Bay. We allowed oyster populations to be decimated, then developed hydraulic dredges that allowed total destruction of soft-shell clam, hard-shell clams, and at the same time, the dredges destroyed the bay's undersea populations of tube-worms and soft corals. Next, Atlantic menhaden became the primary target. These 12-inch fish feed on various forms of plankton and filtered huge quantities of water every day. Rumor had it that the entire water volume of Chesapeake Bay was filtered by menhaden every 7 days. Today, the decimated menhaden population would be hard put to filter the bay's water volume in a decade.
As the water quality began degrading, and dissolved oxygen levels fell, smaller filter feeders, including vegetative, also began dying off. Bay grasses are a tiny fraction of what they were in the early 1960s. In locations where there is lots of aquatic vegetation, the type of grass tends to be invasive species that blanket the water's surface, thus magnifying the problem by not allowing sunlight to reach the bottom and eliminating photosynthesis.
Lastly, what idiotic, imbecile decided that best way to get rid of human and animal waste was to dump it into the water. This, at least to me, makes absolutely no sense at all. And, to continue to fund these agencies perpetuates the idiocy of this centuries old policy. The cost of operating and maintaining the Back River Wastewater Treatment Plant is mind boggling. The biggest advancement they've made there, IMO, is the gold domes they placed over the treatment ponds, thereby allowing them to capture the methane gas and sell it for fuel. This eliminated much of the nasty odor emitted from the plant on a daily basis. For the first time in my life I am able to open the car windows while driving over the Eastern Avenue Bridge. WOW!
Now, I'm all for no discharge zones. The "Y" Valve is locked in place, and I just spent a lot of money replacing the existing valve, which was corroded to the point where it would not move. I'm against ridiculously high penalties for those who dump their gray-water into the bay, or any body of water for that matter. What comes out of the galley sink, head sink, or bilge of any sailboat during an entire season is probably equal in contamination as a single rabbit turd washing into a storm drain--big deal! If you're going to penalize the offenders, penalize them by the type and volume of effluent they allow to flow into the water. Penalizing a boater up to $10,000 for having his or her "Y" valve open, and not penalizing a municipality for a 9,999-gallon sewage spill makes no sense at all. And, the municipality that dumps 50-million gallons in the bay each year will be getting a federal subsidy of several million dollars to set up a study to determine why the spill took place at all.
Sorry about the rant. I'm gonna' mix a Margaretta and utilize my newly acquired chemical engineering skills to transform it into urine. Then I'll flush it into my 45-year-old septic system that's still in perfect condition. It's my contribution to the Chesapeake Bay Cleanup Program. Czar O'Malley, though, thinks I'm part of the problem--he just managed to shove another tax increase up my rectum by doubling the flush tax.
Just another fun day in Paradise,