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Death of the Chesapeake: A History of the Military's Role in Polluting the Bay

ISBN: 978-1-118-68627-0
232 pages
June 2013
Death of the Chesapeake: A History of the Military


In essence this book deals with an area that contributes significantly to the pollution and degradation of Chesapeake Bay, but has been completely overlooked in many of the efforts to restore the Bay, specifically, the federal military pollution sources. The book also recognizes for the first time, that efforts to restore the Bay have failed because of violation of a fundamental precept of environmental cleanup; that is, to sample the site and see what is there. The Bay itself has never been sampled.

Thus this book presents a view of the environmental condition of Chesapeake Bay that is totally unique. It covers a part of the history of the Bay that is not widely known, including how the Bay was formed. It presents a mixture of science, military history, and novel solutions to the Bay's degradation.

In so doing, the author examines the military use of the Bay and reveals the extent of munitions dumpsites containing nitrogen and phosphorus as well as chemical warfare material, and how this is effecting the environment. The book concludes with the author's own clean-up plan that, if implemented, would go a long way to restoring health to Bay.

The book is supplemented with many photographs and maps.

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Table of Contents

Preface xiii

Special Recognition for Those Who Enlightened the Author on Underwater Issues or on the Chesapeake Bay Itself xv

List of Acronyms xvii

Introduction xix

1 The Formation of the Bay and Its Drainage Area 1

References 5

2 Nutrient Dynamics, Depletion, and Replenishment 7

2.1 Nutrient Loads and Oxygen Depletion 7

2.2 Nitrogen and Phosphorus from Munitions 8

2.3 Munitions Disposal Areas 9

2.4 Chemical Weapons Disposal in the Bay 10

2.5 Total Yearly Contaminant Loads from Federal Facilities Entering the Chesapeake Bay 11

2.6 Sewage Contamination by Military Facilities 11

References 12

3 Safety Issues with Old Munitions 15

3.1 Old Explosives Can Spontaneously Detonate 17

References 27

4 Artillery Shells in the Bay 29

4.1 Bloodsworth Island Range 29

4.2 Seacoast Artillery 33

4.3 Fort Meade 35

4.4 Naval Research Laboratory – Chesapeake Bay Detachment 36

4.5 Aberdeen Proving Ground 36

References 37

5 Bombs in the Bay 39

5.1 Langley AFB 40

5.2 Tangier Island 43

5.3 Atlantic Test Ranges, Patuxent River, Maryland 45

5.4 Plum Tree Island 49

5.5 Ragged Point 51

5.6 Hebron Bomber Airport (Intersection of Route 50 & Route 347) 52

5.7 Accidental Bombing of Wittman, MD 52

References 54

6 Mines and Torpedoes in the Bay 55

6.1 The Disappearing Droids of Chesapeake Bay 56

6.2 Patuxent Naval Mine Warfare Test Station 57

References 59

7 Military Munitions and Explosives Factories 61

7.1 Triumph Industries 61

7.2 US Penniman Shell Loading Plant 63

7.3 Chestertown, MD, Munitions Plant 64

References 64

8 Contamination from Military Constituents Leading to Environmental and Human Health Concerns 65

8.1 Potential Health Effects of the Munitions Constituents Closely Associated with Military Munitions 66

8.2 Perchlorates 67

8.3 Lead 71

8.4 Explosive Contaminants 72

8.5 Sampling for Military Contaminants 76

References 76

9 Chemical Weapons Sites on Chesapeake Bay or in the Watershed 79

9.1 Aberdeen Proving Ground 79

9.2 Pooles Island 91

9.3 Berlin, MD 91

9.4 American University Experiment Station 92

9.5 Patuxent River Chemical Incineration 97

9.6 Langley 97

9.7 Naval Research Laboratory – Chesapeake Bay Detachment 97

9.8 Washington Navy Yard 102

9.9 Tidewater Community College – Suffolk 103

9.10 Other Hampton Rhodes, Norfolk, Virginia Beach Sites 103

References 104

10 Military Facilities Grouped by Specific Areas or on Specific Rivers 107

10.1 Potomac River 107

10.2 Anacostia River 119

10.3 Severn River 128

10.4 Norfolk (Hampton Rhodes Area) 128

References 134

11 Radioactive Contamination 137

References 139

12 PCB and Other Ship Contamination 141

12.1 Navy Use of Polychlorinated Biphenyls 141

References 147

13 Environmental Justice 149

References 151

14 Cleaning Up the Bay’s Munitons 153

Conclusion 153

References 158

Appendix I 159

Executive Order and Comments 159

Appendix II 167

Laws Protecting the Chesapeake Bay and Other Bodies of Water 167

Appendix III 173

Military Facilities in The Norfolk, Virginia Area Coast Guard Restrictions Due To Military Opperations 173

Appendix IV 179

Listing Of Related Defense and Chesapeake Bay Research 179

Appendix V 181

Title 33 – Navigation and Navigable Waters 181

Appendix VI 183

Federal Facilities Superfund Sites 183

Appendix VII 187

1994 Tri Data 187

Appendix VIII 189

Installations Within The Chesapeake Bay Watershed 189

Appendix IX 193

Fish Advisories 193

Bibliography 195

Subject and Site Index 205

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Author Information

Richard D. Albright, a chemical weapons and ordnance expert, has a bachelor's from the University of Michigan, a master of science in environmental health from George Washington University and doctorates from Wayne State and an online university. A former Army officer, he wrote a science bestseller, Cleanup of Chemical and Explosive Munitions, now in its second edition; has testified before Congress, state government, and in federal courts on environmental issues. His work has been featured in Washingtonian magazine, The Washington Post, The News-Herald (Northeast Ohio), The Press of Atlantic City, The New York Times and The Kansas City Star. He has worked for 20 years to restore the Chesapeake Bay and sailed the Bay for 40 years. He won the Cafritz prize for his work cleaning up a chemical weapons site.

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“Summing Up: Recommended.  Academic and large public library collections in the Chesapeake Bay area.”  (Choice, 1 March 2014)


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Press Release

June 25, 2013
Death of the Chesapeake: A History of the Military's Role in Polluting the Bay

John Wiley & Sons is pleased to announce the recent publication of Death of the Chesapeake: A History of the Military's Role in Polluting the Bay (ISBN: 978-1-118-68627-0), a book which is certain to generate discussion among government officials, military personnel, and environmentalists.  Moreover, anyone living around the Chesapeake Bay, particularly people who make their living from the Bay’s threatened marine life, will want to read this book for a new perspective on why the Bay is polluted and what can be done about it.


Author Richard Albright examines both the military’s policies towards the Chesapeake Bay and its uses of the Bay.  Offering solid evidence, he reveals the extent of munitions dumpsites in and around the Bay.  These dumpsites contain nitrogen, phosphorus, chemical warfare material, and other potentially hazardous or toxic substances.  Moreover, Dr. Albright carefully documents the impact of the military’s dumping on the health of the Bay, its marine life, and the people who live around the Bay.  The book concludes with the author's own clean-up plan to restore the Chesapeake Bay.


With dwindling populations of crabs, oysters and other marine life, the health of the Chesapeake Bay has been of great concern for decades.  Death of the Chesapeake explores a major source of pollution that has been overlooked by most efforts to assess and restore the Bay: the military.  The book also makes the case that efforts to restore the Bay must involve sampling to fully grasp the nature and extent of pollutants in the Bay. 


By examining the role of the military, Death of the Chesapeake presents a unique view and perspective on the health and sustainability of the Chesapeake Bay and its surroundings.  In order to help readers fully understand the Bay today, the book also provides an historical account.  Starting with the formation of the Bay millions of years ago, the book unveils interesting facts about the Bay, including many that are generally unknown.


Author Richard D. Albright has worked for 20 years to restore the Chesapeake Bay and sailed the Bay for forty years.  He is a chemical weapons and ordnance expert who has testified frequently before Congress, state governments, and federal courts on environmental issues.  Dr. Albright is the recipient of the Cafritz Prize, awarded for his work to clean up and remediate a chemical weapons site.  His work has been featured in The New York Times, Washingtonian Magazine, Washington Post, and Kansas City Star.

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