News | October 22, 2009

Fish waste discharge in Bay going under the radar

In a letter to the Environmental Protection Agency sent October 20, SELC revealed a potentially significant source of nutrient pollution in the Chesapeake Bay that has apparently gone under the regulatory radar at the state and federal level for several decades.  SELC is urging the EPA to thoroughly investigate the discharge of fish waste and take appropriate action.

According to SELC's review of various documents, it appears that Omega Protein Corporation in Reedville has been discharging 13,000 pounds or more of organic waste into the middle of the bay every day during fishing season (May to December) for many years without specific authorization.  The discharge of “bailing water”—thick with fish blood and waste—is not included in the company's environmental permits.

In excessive amounts, organic compounds such as those in fish waste, and other sources like agricultural runoff, use up oxygen in the bay and starve aquatic life. The revelation comes as the EPA is developing the first-ever bay-wide plan to limit the “total maximum daily load” (TMDL) of nutrients and other pollutants that have brought the bay nearly to the brink of collapse.  

Read the press release.