Science & Technology



Environmental groups grateful but vigilant after Key Bridge collapse

Christine Condon, The Baltimore Sun on

Published in Science & Technology News

Migratory, spawning fish making their way up the Patapsco could be impacted by sediment clouds, as could underwater grasses, a critical habitat for bay life. If the water is too cloudy, the grasses will not get enough light to grow and reach the surface.

When it comes to crabs and oysters, the Chesapeake’s “cash crops,” the greater worry is for oysters, which are locked in place, Dennison said. If the water is too cloudy, sediment could smother the filter-feeding mollusks. And amid a rainy spring, extra runoff likely already has clouded the waters, he said.

The good news is that most of the bay’s life isn’t in the deep channel, where the Dali is sitting. Such channels aren’t known for abundant wildlife.

“The life that lives down at the bottom of that channel is just worms,” he said. “Most of the life on the Chesapeake Bay is on the edges — in the shallows.”

There’s also the question of where material dredged from the collapse site would go. There are two existing dredge material containment facilities nearby the Key Bridge.

Volpitta said she would like to see dredged materials tested before they are brought to storage sites.

“I understand that the dredging might need to happen quickly, but instead of just turning around and putting that material somewhere else, we need to temporarily store it and house it so that it can be properly tested before it then gets disposed,” Volpitta said.

For some residents of communities downstream of the Key Bridge in Anne Arundel County, including Stoney Beach and Riviera Beach, the collapse was followed by an “initial period of a lot of fear,” said John Garofolo, a Stoney Beach resident and watershed steward.


The neighborhood was overrun at times by journalists and gawkers, eager to see the devastation, he said.

Soon after the crash, debris started to wash ashore, said Garofolo, who walks the neighborhood nearly every day. The community often sees debris on its beach, especially after storms or after the Conowingo Dam opens its gates, he said. But this debris was unique. Wooden pieces from the bridge, life vests and fire extinguishers.

Residents wondered, he said, if those things were flowing into Stoney Beach, what else was? Could the fuel and hazardous materials aboard the ship reach the community, too?

As the days passed, and environmental officials shared the good results, that fear ebbed a bit, but Garofolo said he’s still planning to treat the water with caution as springtime turns into summer.

Stiil, Grafolo said, “I wouldn’t swim in the water or fish or crab here myself, personally, for the next six months at least.”


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