On September 5, over 60 Eastern Shore real estate professionals listened as Corey McCloskey, a Florida agent, described her state’s housing market crash in the summer of 2018, when toxic algal blooms smothered half of the state’s shorelines. The toxic tide, fueled by warm, nutrient-rich runoff from sugar and citrus farms and urban areas, caused respiratory illnesses in humans and pets, the closure of shellfish harvesting areas, and mass mortality of fish, turtles, birds, and marine mammals. The home-buying market ground to a halt for months, significantly affecting the state’s economy and local businesses. No one wanted to buy a house where you can’t swim in the water and where even breathing the air could make you sick.
Could what happened in Florida happen on Maryland’s Eastern Shore? The short answer is yes. Water quality affects people’s home-buying choices, so ShoreRivers partnered with the Mid-Shore Board of Realtors, the Bay Area Association of Realtors, and Maryland Sea Grant Extension to hold a workshop on local water quality, Critical Area law, and how agents can get involved in clean water efforts.
Liddy Campbell Vandemark, real estate agent with Cross Street Realtors, said, “I learned about our watershed and how it affects property values. I’m now better versed in how my clients can help our rivers and the Chesapeake Bay, whether they have a waterfront property or not.”
After learning from McCloskey about how the Florida real estate industry responded to the“Toxic Summer of 2018,” Eastern Shore agents agreed to develop a water quality task force to continue to educate local agents on current issues threatening our rivers and the resources available to help combat those threats. Some of the tools being discussed include a water quality-focused newsletter, homeowner resources for how to maintain septic systems and protect drinking water wells, and an economic study on how water quality impacts Maryland’s waterfront property values.
“If we are truly going to improve the conditions of our rivers, we need everyone involved,” says Riverkeeper Matt Pluta. “Real estate professionals can be excellent partners in spreading awareness of issues and solutions. As we learned from Florida’s Toxic Summer, it can be difficult to sell waterfront property adjacent to algal blooms and fish kills. Let’s work to make sure that doesn’t happen here.”
Funding for this workshop was granted by Chesapeake Bay Trust’s outreach program.
ShoreRivers protects and restores Eastern Shore waterways through science-based advocacy, restoration, and education.