How do Construction Sites Affect the Health of the Bay?


Proper Construction Control
Spotting Control Failures | Monitor Construction Sites |Resources

How we treat land has everything to do with the health of the Chesapeake Bay. When virgin forests covered much of the Bay watershed all the way to south central New York state, the deep, undisturbed woodland soils caught rainwater, filtered it, and released it slowly to streams, creeks, rivers, and the Bay without sending mud along with it.

That wooded watershed—which we refer to as the "great green filter"—is far smaller today. A "gray funnel" of pavement, rooftops, and storm drains is beginning to replace it as we develop land to accommodate our region's growing population. The Virginia Department of Conservation & Recreation estimates that erosion associated with construction activities can be 200 times greater than that from cropland, and 2,000 times greater than that naturally occurring in woodlands.

Construction of homes, commercial buildings, parking lots, and roads disrupts the natural features of the filter, leaving soil unprotected during rainfall. As a result, muddy water runs quickly across cleared land and pavement, down storm drains or directly to the streams and rivers that feed the Bay. When muddy runoff from construction sites reaches waterways, it:

  • Introduces harmful pollutants, including sediment, nitrogen and phosphorous, pesticides, oil, metals, and other chemicals.
  • Blocks the sunlight that underwater grasses need to survive.
  • Smothers insect larvae, fish eggs, oysters and clams, and other bottom-dwelling animals.
  • Reduces oxygen and water clarity required by aquatic animals to survive.
  • Damages stream banks, channels, and private property.
  • Fills drinking water reservoirs and increases water treatment costs.
  • Disrupts recreational and commercial fishing, tourism, and the aesthetics of our waters.

Photo Credit: CBF

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