DARLINGTON, Md. – Rain and flooding decimated neighborhoods and towns in Northern Pennsylvania earlier this week. Now, all that water flowing down the Susquehanna River has reached the Conowingo Dam, rising fast and forcing engineers to open up six dam gates on Wednesday. Exelon, the dam’s owner, expects to open more gates as water levels peak on Thursday.
Dirty water, tainted the color of chocolate milk, blasted through the gates of the Conowingo Dam, sending 207,000 cubic feet of water per second by the evening along with debris and pollution into the Chesapeake Bay, according to the U.S. Geological Survey.
It worries people like Clean Chesapeake Coalition member Tom Bradshaw, who says progress in the Bay’s health could go back as much as five years. Bradshaw adds there’s not much he can do but wait with little hope the water will stay clear and blue.
“Water quality is going to be impacted significantly with the nitrogen and phosphorous that’s coming over,” Bradshaw said. “We’re going to see sediment coming across here and yes, you’re going to see chocolate-milk looking water.”
According to Governor Larry Hogan’s Office, several state agencies are in contact with Pennsylvania, pushing the state to cleanup any debris before reaching the dam.
Hogan also says they’re watching closely and waiting for Exelon to open up to nine gates by Thursday.
Bradshaw says he’ll be eyeing what comes from the dam closely – unsure of what muddy waters will bring to the Chesapeake Bay next.
Just two weeks ago, up to 22 gates were opened at the Conowingo Dam to relieve itself of water and debris.
According to Maryland’s Department of Natural Resources, they’re still working to remove that debris in the upper Bay