June 2020 ENews

Stronger Together: Dismantling Racism Takes Action, Not Just Words

Waterkeepers Chesapeake would like to address the latest events surrounding the murders of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor and many other unarmed black people. We stand in solidarity with black, indigenous, and people of color who are routinely and disproportionately impacted every day by social, racial and environmental injustices. As Waterkeepers, we fight for clean water with frontline communities who suffer the impacts of systemic racism not just in actions like we have recently seen, but in decades of pollution dumped on their communities. To stop racism, we must be anti-racist in not just our words but in our actions. The staff of Waterkeepers Chesapeake are united with our impacted communities here and across the country, and are committed to ensuring these communities’ voices are heard. Please read our full statement with a list of resources.

Exelon Disregards Conowingo Dam License Conditions, Endangered Migratory Fish Populations

Exelon, owner of the Conowingo Dam, while seeking a 50-year federal license renewal, blatantly disregarded conditions of its current license that requires the company to operate a fish ladder to allow migratory fish to spawn upriver. Using the pandemic as an excuse, Exelon notified FERC it would not operate the fish ladder this spring during the height of the spawning season for American shad and herring. After learning about Exelon’s decision, Waterkeepers Chesapeake and Lower Susquehanna Riverkeeper immediately alerted the press, which led Exelon to pivot and announce that they would resume lift operations by May 7. On May 27, Exelon shut down the fish lift once again due to the presence of the invasive northern snakeheads from Asia. Unfortunately, the combination of Exelon’s nearly two months of inoperation and second shutdown of the fish elevator has done significant damage to the shad and river herring populations. Take action and tell Governor Hogan to stop the dirty dam deal with Exelon. You can also donate to our campaign to hold Exelon accountable.


Our Waterkeepers’ 2019 Water Quality Reports are Out!

Our Waterkeeper members are out on the water gathering data to protect our local communities, publishing yearly water quality reports assessing the health of local waterways, including the growth of submerged aquatic vegetation (SAV), unsafe bacteria levels, and health of aquatic species. Several 2019 report cards were released this spring, documenting a common problem that unusual levels of rainfall continue to harm our waterways. These Waterkeepers have met the challenges posed by the current pandemic and have ensured that they can continue their vital water quality monitoring programs under current safety guidelines. Under these crisis conditions, many of our members have been forced to delay the start of monitoring programs, to ensure the safety of the monitoring volunteers, or citizen scientists, who play a critical role in protecting their local communities. We need everyone to help! Use The Water Reporter app to send pollution reports to your Waterkeeper.


Gunpowder Riverkeeper Launches Clear Choices Clean Water Campaign


Gunpowder Riverkeeper Theaux Le Gardeur is bringing the Clear Choices Clean Water campaign to Harford County. This campaign puts the power of cleaner water in the hands of local residents with online pledges. Polluted runoff in urban and suburban areas continues to increase despite many costly efforts, but local residents can be the system of change. Clear Choices Clean Water inspires people to pledge to implement water friendly practices that reduce polluted stormwater runoff. These easy practices, such as reducing lawn fertilizer, planting native plants, and managing pet waste, can make a big difference to ensure clean water in our local neighborhoods. Take a pledge today!

Fair Farms Addresses Inequities in Our Food System

To understand and begin to repair the root issues of inequality in our food system requires a deep look at its history and the ways in which it perpetuates racism in our country. Please read Fair Farms’ statement Challenging Racism Within Our Broken Food System with a list of resources.

On June 3rd, Fair Farms co-hosted a panel discussion with the Center for Progressive Reform: Supporting Sustainable Farmers During a Pandemic and Beyond. Our panel of local farmers and policy experts helped us explore how racial, health, and social inequity damages our food and farming system, and explained how it is time for a “just transition” to a more sustainable production model. Facebook Live version here.

A new study from our partners at the Environmental Integrity Project concludes that ammonia air pollution from the Chesapeake region poultry industry contributes about 12 million pounds of nitrogen to the Chesapeake Bay every year, more than all the sewage and wastewater in Maryland or Pennsylvania.

The Story of Plastic Panel Discussion with Our Waterkeepers

On May 21, 2020 Waterkeepers Chesapeake hosted a virtual film screening and panel discussion on the new documentary, The Story of Plastic. Anacostia Riverkeeper, Lower Susquehanna Riverkeeper, James Riverkeeper and Assateague Coastkeeper discussed how the plastic crisis impacts local waterways on a daily basis, and what they are doing about it. If you missed the conversation, you can view the recording of the panel discussion on our Youtube channel, here. Check out our blog post for additional resources and information about plastic pollution and ways you can take action.

Waterkeeper Groups Achieve Settlement with EPA on Drinking Water Safety

Waterkeepers Chesapeake, Waterkeeper Alliance and California Coastkeeper Alliance reached a successful settlement agreement with EPA to set deadlines to regulate, and thus reduce, emerging toxics and carcinogenic contaminants, including hexavalent chromium, in drinking water. This settlement was filed in federal court this month.



Goodbye & Thank You, Katlyn!

After five years of leading our legal and policy work, Katlyn Schmitt has moved on to a position with our partners at the Center for Progressive Reform. We will miss her but are happy we get to keep working with her at CPR. We thank Katlyn for her excellent legal work and steady presence during the chaotic legislative session in Maryland. Good luck, Katlyn!

Our 4th annual In Defense of Water is going virtual to keep everyone safe and healthy during this global pandemic. We hope you will join us on Thursday, September 24th for this Virtual Celebration of Clean Water Advocacy, an evening to celebrate our clean water successes and raise awareness of our work making our local waters drinkable, swimmable and fishable for everyone. We will honor a local community clean water champion with our Water Warrior Award and one of our Waterkeepers with the Waterkeeper Outstanding Win (WOW) Award. We’re still working on our creative lineup – but you can expect special guests, music, and beautiful footage of the local rivers, streams and bays we all love so dearly.


Thank you!






Betsy Nicholas
Executive Director


Take a Clear Choices Clean Water pledge to adopt water-friendly practices in your daily life like picking up pet waste, reducing lawn fertilizer, planting native plants, and more! Your actions can protect clean water! YOU can make a difference!

We have made it easier to find and report pollution — and to report the fun things you see and do on the river. Working with Chesapeake Commons, we developed the free Water Reporter App so you can send reports directly to your local Waterkeeper! Download it today!

Take Swim Guide with you – wherever you go! The free Swim Guide app makes it easy to know the water quality at your beach. Several of our Waterkeepers post water quality monitoring results every week — check it out before you head to your favorite river, bay and beach!

Shop WeeGreen and find a range of the very best green and sustainable products and local services. Every purchase benefits Waterkeepers Chesapeake!

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Waterkeepers Chesapeake is a coalition of seventeen independent Waterkeeper programs working to make the waters of the Chesapeake and Coastal Bays swimmable and fishable. Waterkeepers Chesapeake amplifies the voices of each Waterkeeper and mobilizes these organizations to fight pollution and champion clean water. The members of Waterkeepers Chesapeake work locally, using grassroots action and advocacy to protect their communities and their waters.

For info: www.WaterkeepersChesapeake.org or email info@waterkeeperschesapeake.org.

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