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PHILADELPHIA - A new assessment of the mid-Atlantic region, using the latest scientific tools and drawing upon carefully designed sampling plans, provides the first-ever analysis of the relative health of 5,500 square miles of estuaries, reaching from the Delaware River outside Philadelphia to the mouth of the Chesapeake Bay at Norfolk, Va.
"This publication gathers together and evaluates the best available scientific knowledge about these critical waters. The Chesapeake Bay, Delaware Estuary, and Delmarva coastal bays are vital resources," said W. Michael McCabe, administrator for the EPA’s mid-Atlantic region.
Among its major findings, the report reveals that the Chesapeake Bay is the estuary most deficient in oxygen in the region, while the Delaware Estuary has some of the largest concentrations of nutrients measured anywhere in the world. The report also notes that the Delmarva coastal bays are the least degraded systems in the mid-Atlantic region, but are threatened by encroaching urbanization.
"This report reinforces the need to maintain our commitment to the clean-up of these waterways and to the restoration of the living resources that reside within these estuaries," said Senator Paul S. Sarbanes (D-Md.) today upon the release of the report.
Estuaries are transitional zones where salt water from the sea mixes with fresh water. Scientists have long-recognized the importance of estuaries for both their biological and habitat value. Estuaries also provide for many diverse human uses, supplying water for municipalities, industry and agriculture; supporting commercial and
sport fisheries; and supporting tourism and recreation. They are important locations for manufacturing and shipping in addition to their extraordinary aesthetic values.
The report details many of the ways in which estuaries are being adversely affected by human activity and calls for "active management if environmental quality is to be sustained." The Chesapeake Bay and National Estuary programs have instituted successful environmental management programs to address these environmental challenges,
The Condition of the Mid-Atlantic Estuaries was prepared by scientists from EPA’s Office of Research and Development, Narragansett, R.I., in collaboration with federal, state, and academic scientists. The peer-reviewed document represents the first comprehensive report on estuaries, ever done on a regional scale, including water quality, sediment contamination, habitat change, and the condition of living resources.
The report will be distributed at the Mid-Atlantic Integrated Assessment conference being held in Baltimore from November 30 through December 2. The conference, sponsored by the EPA, will focus on a wide range of ecological features in the region, including estuaries, steams, and forests.
Copies of the Condition of the Mid-Atlantic Estuaries report can be obtained by calling the EPA at 781-544-0026. An electronic version of the report will be available through the World Wide Web at www.epa.gov/emap.