Bioaccumulation in the Chesapeake Bay

Haley Brown

Math 33

W&R Assignment



Bioaccumulation in the Chesapeake Bay

             The Chesapeake Bay Watershed is the largest estuary in the United States. An estuary is a tidal mouth of a large river, where the tide meets the stream. It runs through the states of Maryland and Virginia and has more than 150 major rivers and streams that run through the bay. It is about 200 miles long from its’ start at the Susquehanna River to its outlet in the Atlantic Ocean. It is home to more than 3,600 species of plant and animal life, 300 fish species and 2,700 plant types. The bay is a very important part of the ecosystem in the surrounding states. Unfortunately, the Chesapeake Bay has been taken over by chemical pollutants and polychlorinated biphenyls or PCB’s. These chemicals are dangerous to the wildlife that inhabit the water, and also to our eco system. If the Chesapeake Bay and its tributaries continue to be infected with PCB’s it could harm the health of both humans and wildlife. Bioaccumulation is a result of pollution in the Chesapeake Bay Watershed.

Bioaccumulation is the accumulation of substances, such as pesticides, or other chemicals in an organism. This phenomenon occurs when an organism or animal like a fish or crab, is consuming a pollutant and the inflow or consumption, is more than the outflow. This usually happens because these pollutants tend to get stored in the body fats. Therefore, if the environmental levels of the toxin are not very high, there is still a risk of chronic poisoning. The bioaccumulation that is in the Chesapeake Bay stems from common organic chemical contaminant include PCB’s, PAH’s and pesticides. PCBs act as a flame retardant in electrical equipment and have been used in inks, adhesives, sealants and caulk. PCBs have not been produced in the United States since 1977 ban, the chemicals still continue to enter the environment through accidental leak and improper disposal. Which means the PCB contamination in the watershed is wide spread. Agriculture accounts for about 75 percent of all pesticide use, 85 percent of U.S. households store at least one pesticide at home.


Being that it is the largest estuary in North America, it is very important for it to be clean and free of chemical pollutants. Almost ¾ of the Bay’s tidal waters are infected with pesticides, pharmaceuticals, metals and other chemicals, which can harm the health of both humans’ wildlife. There are many common organic chemicals that are in the Chesapeake Bay Watershed. According to, “A 2010 report from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) found the extent and severity of mercury contamination to be widespread in the watershed. Contamination with metals like aluminum, chromium or iron, on the other hand, is more often localized.”

PCB’s persist in the environment, posing a large risk for humans and wildlife. The background levels in PCBs in sediments are 50 nanograms per gram compared to the PCB levels in aquatic species which is 150 to 450 nanograms per gram. Which means that the accumulation factor is between 3 and 9 and the background concentration is magnified by a factor of 3 to 9 depending on the species.

The connection between the Chesapeake Bay and Penn State is the Spring Creek Watershed. Penn State is actually located in the Spring Creek Watershed which is on the Western edge of the Chesapeake Bay Watershed. Any pollution that is in the Spring Creek Watershed, makes its’ way into the Chesapeake Bay. This shows that we are all connected even though we aren’t directly near the Chesapeake Bay. Although us students don’t live directly near the Chesapeake Bay Watershed, the pollutants that we put into our air and into our water systems here, will affect the wildlife and humans in the Chesapeake Bay and our ecosystem. It is important for people to realize that if you pollute in a certain area, it won’t affect just that area.

In conclusion, The Chesapeake Bay Watershed is a huge part of our ecosystem. It is the largest estuary in the United States and it is extremely polluted with PCB’s and different chemical contaminants. This contaminants and PCB’s affect the wildlife and also the human life that live near and survive off of the Chesapeake Bay. Although Penn State is far from the Chesapeake Bay Watershed, the Spring Creek Watershed is located in State College so the pollutants that spread through the Spring Creek Watershed affect the Chesapeake Bay. PCB’s and chemical pollutants are a huge problem in the Chesapeake Bay Watershed.



“Chemical Contaminants.” Chesapeake Bay Program,

Graczyk12*, Thaddeus K., et al. “Thaddeus K. Graczyk.” Applied and Environmental Microbiology, 1 May 2006,

Michael J. Focazio, Scott W. Phillips, David W. Morganwalp. Contaminants Affect Fish and Wildlife in the Chesapeake Bay,

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