Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Clean Air Act has led to improved water quality in the Chesapeake Bay watershed

Date:
November 6, 2013
Source:
University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science
Summary:
A new study shows that the reduction of pollution emissions from power plants in the mid-Atlantic is making an impact on the quality of the water that ends up in the Chesapeake Bay.

Potomac River near Great Falls, part of Chesapeake Bay watershed.
Credit: Copyright Michele Hogan

A new study shows that the reduction of pollution emissions from power plants in the mid-Atlantic is making an impact on the quality of the water that ends up in the Chesapeake Bay. The study by scientists at the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science confirms that as the amount of emissions of nitrogen oxide from coal-fired power plants declined in response to the Clean Air Act, the amount of nitrogen pollution found in the waterways of forested areas in Pennsylvania, Maryland and Virginia fell as well.

"When we set out to reduce nitrogen pollution to the Chesapeake Bay, deposition of nitrogen resulting from air pollution on the watershed was considered uncontrollable," said Donald Boesch, president of the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science. "This study shows that improvements in air quality provided benefits to water quality that we were not counting on."

Researchers evaluated long-term water quality trends for nine forested mountain watersheds located along the spine of the Appalachian Mountains from Pennsylvania to southern Virginia over a 23-year period (1986 to 2009). The sampling began slightly before the Clean Air Act of 1990 imposed controls on power plant emissions to reduce nitrogen oxide pollution through its Acid Rain Program. According to the EPA, total human-caused nitrogen oxide emissions declined 32% from 1997 to 2005 in 20 eastern U.S. states that participated in the program.

Intended to reduce the emissions (sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxide) that caused acid rain, the program had the unintended consequence of reducing the amount of nitrogen oxide particles landing on forests in the sample area and ultimately improving water quality in the watershed.

"It worked for something nobody anticipated," said lead author Keith Eshleman, a professor at the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science's Appalachian Laboratory. "The original idea was to reduce nitrogen oxide concentrations in the atmosphere because that would reduce acidity of precipitation and decrease ozone in the atmosphere. The other result was that water quality has improved, a side benefit that was unanticipated."

Air pollution that falls on the land (known atmospheric deposition) is one of the biggest sources of pollution to the forested area that impacts the Chesapeake Bay--sixty percent of the watershed. Nitrogen accumulation has significant consequences for air quality, human health, and the health of aquatic ecosystems. When excess nitrogen enters the streams and waterways, it can cause algae blooms that significantly impact water quality and marine life.

"In our most pristine and most heavily forested basins, nitrogen deposition is a primary driver of pollution," said Eshleman. "Where we are located in the Mid Atlantic, we've historically had some of the highest rates of deposition, and received some of the greatest reductions owing to the Clean Air Act."

The study, "Surface water quality is improving due to declining atmosphere N deposition" is published in the November 5 issue of Environment Science and Technology by Keith Eshleman, Robert Sabo and Kathleen Kline of the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Keith N. Eshleman, Robert D. Sabo, Kathleen M. Kline. Surface Water Quality Is Improving due to Declining Atmospheric N Deposition. Environmental Science & Technology, 2013; 47 (21): 12193 DOI: 10.1021/es4028748

Cite This Page:

University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science. "Clean Air Act has led to improved water quality in the Chesapeake Bay watershed." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 6 November 2013. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/11/131106122113.htm>.
University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science. (2013, November 6). Clean Air Act has led to improved water quality in the Chesapeake Bay watershed. ScienceDaily. Retrieved September 18, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/11/131106122113.htm
University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science. "Clean Air Act has led to improved water quality in the Chesapeake Bay watershed." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/11/131106122113.htm (accessed September 18, 2014).

Share This



More Earth & Climate News

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Raw: Elephant Undergoes Surgery in Tbilisi Zoo

Raw: Elephant Undergoes Surgery in Tbilisi Zoo

AP (Sep. 18, 2014) Grand the elephant has successfully undergone surgery to remove a portion of infected tusk at Tbilisi Zoo in Georgia. British veterinary surgeons used an electric drill to extract the infected piece. (Sept. 18) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Raw: Scientists Examine Colossal Squid

Raw: Scientists Examine Colossal Squid

AP (Sep. 16, 2014) Squid experts in New Zealand thawed and examined an unusual catch on Tuesday: a colossal squid. It was captured in Antarctica's remote Ross Sea in December last year and has been frozen for eight months. (Sept. 16) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Man Floats for 31 Hours in Gulf Waters

Man Floats for 31 Hours in Gulf Waters

AP (Sep. 16, 2014) A Texas man is lucky to be alive after he and three others floated for more than a day in the Gulf of Mexico when their boat sank during a fishing trip. (Sept. 16) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Researchers Explore Shipwrecks Off Calif. Coast

Researchers Explore Shipwrecks Off Calif. Coast

AP (Sep. 16, 2014) Federal researchers are exploring more than a dozen underwater sites where they believe ships sank in the treacherous waters west of San Francisco in the decades following the Gold Rush. (Sept. 16) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins