By Peter Galuszka

Imagine you are enjoying a refreshing summertime swim in the Chesapeake Bay or one of the Rivahs. You feel great, but shortly afterwards, you become  very ill. Before you know it, new forms of parasitic isopods are eating up your heart, lungs and kidneys.

You are terrified, in great pain and you die.

Just when you thought the Bay’s water quality is getting healthier comes Hollywood mogul Barry Levinson (“Good Morning Vietnam”), telling us not to go back in the water.  (Watch trailer)

He really, really means it. His new horror movie out today, The Bay, shows that the giant estuary is evil and abused. Culprits in the film are pesticide runoff from exburbia’s vulgar McMansions of the type common in Northern Virginia and the Richmond suburbs and hormone-infused feces from the millions of chickens raised at crowded corporate hatcheries on the Eastern Shore. Such yuck creates parasitic isopods that ruthlessly eat human organs from the inside out.

According to the film’s trailer, the government tries to prevent panic by confiscating social media and videos. There are bunny-suited specialists from the Centers from Disease Control attempting to figure out what’s happening. Of course, there’s lots of screaming and anxiety, as well.

How can this be? We had been told the bay had been improving. A report last year quoted the U.S. Geological Survey saying that 70 percent of test sites had showed improvement for nitrogen and phosphorous over the long term and 40 percent of sites showed improvement for sediments. Streams feeding the bay, however, showed consistent problems.

States in the bay watershed have been meeting for years to try to adopt some kind of comprehensive approach limiting pollution from “non-point” sources, meaning farm fields and lawns, instead of waste pipes from factories or power plants. Of special concern to them are oxygen-depleted “dead zones” that show up in hot summer months.

And there have been biological oddities in the bay watershed. A few years back, we were introduced to ugly snakehead fish that hung out in the Potomac and then walked on land.

Does this make for a giant petri dish breeding parasitic isopods capable of eating human flesh? Let’s just say that according to “Mother Jones” magazine, “The Bay” was shot in 18 days at a cost of $2 million.

Levinson told Mother Jones, the docudrama “isn’t easy to watch. It’s very creepy.”

For some Baconauts, who shall go nameless, it might be time to put that idyllic Eastern Shore dream house on the market.

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  1. DJRippert Avatar

    I am laughing as I read your column. I’ll take my chances with the bay. You take your chances with Richmond Bubbleup and his army of zombies parading through the streets of the West End waiting for public private partnerships to spontaneously generate in order to move Richmond forward into the last century!

    The bay has been improving over the last 30 years I’ve been boating and fishing there. However, Virginia remains the bay’s foremost enemy. From the absolute destruction of the Menhaden stock in Reedville to the anti-Clean Water Act jihad of Bob Goodlatte, US Congressman from Virginia’s 6th district. Goodlatte makes Eric Cantor look like Albert Einstein.

    It’s entirely appropriate that Virginia is well know for Virginia hams. If states were animals Virginia would be a pig.

    The closest thing to a killer scourge in the bay is pfiesteria. Pfiesteria is caused by algae blooms which are, in turn, fed by excessive nutrient runoff from water treatment plants, septic plants and (especially) high density farming operations. There is some debate as to whether pfiesteria can cause harm to humans. The debate has swung from yes to no to maybe.

  2. DJRippert Avatar

    The snakehead infestation was caused by a home aquarium enthusiast putting the fish into a Maryland pond once the fish outgrew his aquarium. The fish bred in the pond. In addition, the snakehead can squirm over land as a protective mechanism during times of drought. So, some of the snakeheads in the pond squirmed to a creek that led to a river that led to the Potomac. The snakehead is now quite common in the Potomac. In fact, snakeheads are quite tasty. However, there is concern that the voracious appetite of the snakehead will hard the indigenous fish population.

    A few years back it was the appearance of hydrilla in the Potomac that had everybody in a panic. The weed, presumable introduced on boat trailers from its native home in Flroida was expected to overrun the Potomac. The US Army Corps of Engineers tried to clear the river of hydrilla by harvesting the plant. Unfortunately, when small bits broke off during the harvesting operation they floated away, sank to the bottom and formed new hydrilla plants. Many believe the harvesting effort actually spread the hydrilla mush faster than would have happened without the harvesting. Yet this comedy of errors seems to have ended well. The hydrilla only grows in certain relatively shallow depths so it never overran the river. And, it kept the sediment on the bottom secure so there was less churn and fewer algae blooms. Finally, it provided an almost perfect nursery for fish fry escaping predators. Today, the Forest L Wood (FLW) Professional Bass Fishing tour holds one of its annual contests in the Potomac in and around Washington, DC. Nobody, and I mean nobody, would have guessed that was going to happen if they were asked 25 years ago.

  3. reed fawell Avatar
    reed fawell

    We live in a World where our advanced science gives us amazing powers of analysis. Thus we delve deep into the changes endlessly occurring in our natural world. At the same time our cutting edge technologies give millions of us amazing powers of instant communication.

    All this science and communication endlessly feeds our imaginations, creating a daily explosion of myths, fears, and overblown prognostication.

    So I suggest that Chesapeake homeowners continue to enjoy their time on the bay waters, without fear, or trepidation.

  4. Wouldn’t more water help the Bay? Even if it were from global warming? One of Old Time Democrat friends keeps telling me that.

  5. Does anyone want to guess what NY is going to do with the water in the tunnels when it gets pumped out?

    does anyone think any different would happen in a flood/disaster in the Washington DC area?

    that’s basically all you need to know about the prospects for estuaries like the Chesapeake Bay (and other Bays) in a sea-water rise scenario.

    We doubt global warming.. even though most do not doubt the sea level rise – and what happens when a storm like Sandy hits and the low lying areas get flooded?

    It all gets flushed downstream to the Bay.

    Way up in the headwaters of the Potomac – they raise chickens and turkeys. not one or two or a few hundred. they raise millions and they all poop and their poop is full to the brim with hormones and anti-biotics and you know what happens to it?

    it sits in a pile until a hard rain occurs.

    and you try to control it – and the “job killing regulations” epitaph gets hurled.

    you want to know what happens to hormones and antibiotics in the NoVA sewage? that’s right – right into the Potomac.

    We simply lack the intestinal fortitude to do what has to be done to protect the Bay. We much prefer “feel good” campaigns ….and mottos.

  6. reed fawell Avatar
    reed fawell

    What are you talking about, Larry?

    In the early sixties, you could walk on the Potomac River, light its gaseous water afire and barbecue burgers. But you’ve have to wear rubber boots and a gas mask doing it. And you couldn’t touch the water, swim in it, or otherwise stand the stink.

    Great progress, sure, but you’ll go broke and bust, long before you’ll make the world perfect. Or anywhere near close, particularly if the Government Clowns are running with show with other peoples’ money.

  7. great progress on sewage treatment but serious backsliding on impervious surfaces and stormwater runoff and industrial farming.

    It’s not about perfect. It’s what gets into the river now especially when there are heavy rains, storms and flooding.

    go to NoVa and look at the streams after a one or two inch rain and you’ll see the problem.

    but I also point out that even though we have done better with raw sewage at the plant – we now have hormones and anti-biotics going through the sewage treatment plants – continuously and they have an impact.

    Upstream on the Potomac and Shenandoah rivers they are finding intersex fish – fish that have both male and female parts and likely due to the hormones used on chickens and turkeys.

    we do not have a plan for keeping hormones and anti-biotics out of the waste stream – not the farms – and not the sewage treatment plants.

    so, yes the water is not near as dirty looking but it has problems that are not being dealt with.

    stormwater runoff – every time there is a strong rain flushes a witch’s brew of stuff from the parking lots of urbanized areas.

    we think we have “cleaned up” the Bay – that we have largely taken care of the issue. Nothing could be further from the truth.

  8. I don’t mean to spread doom and gloom but we have some serious challenges with the Bay and too many of us think we’ve finished the cleanup.

    I’m especially concerned about hormones and anti-biotics – a witches brew of them affecting every living thing in the rivers and Bay.

    Think about this for a minute. Think about what medicines you might be taking and how important the dose is or taking it with other medicines. Imagine not only taking your medicine but everyone elses medicines…

    this is what gets into the sewage system now days and it’s a worrying thing. you and I would not want to drink such a mixture of hormones and anti-biotics but that’s what’s going into the rivers.

    the question is – is it getting diluted sufficiently to not affect other living critters and we already know that the concentrations from the poultry farms is affecting fish.

    Our usual practice is to act AFTER it is clear that a substance is causing harm. In the case of DDT, we found out and luckily removing it brought back the eagles.

    at this point, we have very little information on what drugs affect which species and how but my suspects are that it’s not at all good.

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