West Virginia’s Water Problems Don’t Stop at the Border

We’ve discussed how rivers, streams, lakes, tributaries, watersheds, and all other bodies of water in the Mountain State that have been compromised due to human-induced environmental problems. Acid mine drainage (AMD), acid rain deposition, mountaintop removal, and the introduction of foreign species have all negatively affected West Virginia’s bodies of water; but it does not stop there. All of these factors are affecting more than just the wild and wonderful streams and rivers that West Virginia is known for, they are having an impact on the Potomac River, the Chesapeake Bay, and ultimately the Atlantic Ocean as well.

In 2012, the Potomac River was named America’s Most Endangered River. The river forms parts of the border between West Virginia and Virginia, as well as Maryland and the District of Columbia. This means that streams and smaller rivers in West Virginia that flow into the Potomac River, are feeding it with the same pollutants that I’ve already described in previous posts. This is not only a strong indication for more clean water protection, but a major wake-up call for the Mountain State and the federal government to continue taking measures to assure West Virginia streams and rivers stay clean and healthy. The Potomac River provides five million people with drinking water, and numerous others with outdoor recreational activities. As with the streams and rivers in West Virginia, these problems are also contributing to the water quality and the aquatic life in the Potomac River, according to the Interstate Commission of the Potomac River Basin. It is not just a state concern, it is a interstate concern that needs the cooperation of  both state and federal environmental agencies, as well as the citizens living in these states and the nation’s capital. And guess what? It needs the cooperation of even more than West Virginia, Virginia, Maryland, and Washington, D.C., because the Potomac River isn’t the only other body of water being affected. I bet most of you can already guess what comes next.

Yes, the Chesapeake Bay. The Potomac River feeds straight into the Bay, which occupies more than just those three states and the federal district. The Chesapeake Bay runs from New York State, all the way down to Virginia. The problems associated in West Virginia’s bodies of water, flow into the Potomac River, which flows in to the Chesapeake Bay. It has long been known that the Chesapeake Bay is experiencing major environmental issues that have been produced by multiple factors from other states, including West Virginia. Along with all of the other states that I have previously mentioned, as well as the entire District of Columbia, that fall into the Chesapeake Bay Watershed are Pennsylvania, Delaware, and New York. The major rivers that feed the Chesapeake Bay are the York, the James, the Rappahannock, the Susquehanna, and of course, the Potomac. Since the Potomac River is the only river that involves West Virginia’s relationship to the Chesapeake Bay, that is what this state needs to focus on taking care of in order to do its part in cleaning up the Chesapeake Bay. In 2002, West Virginia Governor Bob Wise officially signed the Chesapeake Bay Program Water Quality Initiative Memorandum of Understanding, making West Virginia a Headwaters Partner in the Chesapeake Bay Program.

By considering all of the factors and taking action for prevention, that I have talked about in previous posts to decrease the human-induced pollution and environmental issues in the streams and rivers of West Virginia, that will help make the Potomac cleaner, which will benefit the Chesapeake Bay. The state has started to take care of the AMD in their water, they’ve taken measures to decrease acid rain deposition, they are looking into alternatives to mountaintop removal, and they are determining how to repopulate their waters with native fish species. All of these factors will help clean up the Bay. This is because the cleanliness has to start somewhere, so if West Virginia can make sure that its waters are clean, then they have done their part in contributing to making sure that the Chesapeake Bay is clean.

It is interesting how what we do in the Mountain State, can have an impact on the Chesapeake Bay. It takes a cooperative approach from all of the states in the Chesapeake Bay Watershed, and we’ve been positively progressing over the years. I’ll be interested to see what the status of the Bay is when I’m older. The aquatic life of the Bay’s ecosystem, as well as the health to humans who live near it all depends on the actions that these states, the District of Columbia, and the federal government take to clean it up.



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