Public Release: 

El Nino's Harm Continues

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

The headaches from El Nino's pounding rains will continue long after the rains stop.

When it rained this hard two years ago, the Chesapeake Bay received a heavy load of pollutants. Scientists from the U.S. Geological estimate that from January to September 1996, about 263 million pounds of nitrogen and 18 million pounds of phosphorus entered into the Chesapeake Bay, with nitrogen about 50% higher and phosphorus about twice the normal amount that usually enters the Bay. This year's heavy rainfall can cause similar problems on both coasts.

Polluted runoff can cause many problems as the rain hammers away at the land, causing erosion of sediment and carrying along pollutants left on the ground.

Although a car with a slight oil leak might not seem like a prime cause of water pollution, consider the impact of hundreds or thousands of cars, trucks and buses leaking oil onto the pavement, where it mixes with rainwater and is washed into streams, rivers and oceans. Other sources of land-based pollution include farms and vineyards, where exposed soil, pesticides and fertilizers can contribute to the pollution that winds up in rainwater.

Increased levels of nutrient pollution can cause algal blooms in bays, estuaries and coastal waters. These blooms of algae, along with high sediment loads, can decrease the amount of light and oxygen that is available for underwater grasses and plants.

The effects of polluted runoff are highlighted as part of U.N.'s designated International Year of the Ocean. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has taken the lead in the Year of the Ocean to educate the public about the important role the marine environment plays in our daily lives.

For more information:

NOAA's interagency research strategy on Harmful Algal Blooms -

Water information/press releases from USGS -

General information on nonpoint source pollution:

Peyton Robertson <> 301/713-3098 x137,
FAX: 301/713-4367


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