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Report highlights environmental justice gaps in Chesapeake Bay.

Report highlights environmental justice gaps in Chesapeake Bay.

A new report on the Chesapeake Bay has highlighted stark inequalities in different parts of the bay’s watershed in terms of health, economics, and social justice. The research by the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science’s evaluation marks the first time an integrated environmental justice index has been included in the university’s report. The index considers social factors, such as poverty, race, ethnicity, and pre-existing health conditions. The report revealed that urban and rural areas of the Chesapeake Bay face greater obstacles than suburban areas, with rural parts of the bay’s watershed, such as the Eastern Shore of Maryland and Virginia, presenting the most significant challenges.

Bill Dennison, Vice President for Science Application at UMCES, said that having a healthy ecosystem necessitates the existence of a healthy community. The report showed that the health of the region’s six-state watershed, which includes Delaware, Maryland, New York, Pennsylvania, Virginia, West Virginia, and the District of Columbia, directly influences the health of the bay. UMCES gave an overall “C” grade for the health of the bay, similar to last year’s grades. Still, the Center emphasized the improvement in the trends and President Peter Goodwin highlighted the need to cut nutrient pollution caused by nitrogen and phosphorus from agricultural and urban runoff.

Although the overall health score of the Chesapeake Bay has risen over the past two years, it is believed that the states in the watershed will be unable to reduce nutrient flows to the bay significantly by the 2025 deadline. The report stressed the importance of picking up the pace of restoration to achieve nutrient reduction targets in the future. Maryland Senator Chris Van Hollen highlighted the challenges of bay restoration, describing it as “like trying to run up an escalator that’s going down” but advocated the need to establish new ambitious targets and to ensure accountability towards achieving them.

© 2020 CANDOUR

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