When people think of the Amish, a small religious group common in the northeastern United States, what do you think of? Avoidance of technology, beards, farming, honesty, right? You probably don't think "marine pollution."
But Discovery News is reporting that farming in the Chesapeake bay area of Maryland and Virginia is polluting the bay, and that a considerable portion of the pollution comes from Amish farmers, basically for the same reason that technocratic farmers pollute: mismanagement of fertilizer.
Amish farmers may eschew chemical fertilizers, but they use an old-fashioned version of the same: horse manure. The manure contains the nitrogen and phosphorus that the crops need, but if over-applied, these same chemicals leach into the water, leading to harmful algae blooms. In ocean environments, these blooms lead to dead fish and very unhappy fishermen (who can no longer obtain enough fish to pay their bills).
Most Amish farmers dislike outsiders, especially ones from the government. Thankfully, a three-way chain of trust has been developed between a local charity, the EPA, and farmers, for the best possible result. The charity gets government funding, and in turn provides useful advice to farmers to both prevent pollution and improve their own health, and the farmers get help from people they can trust.
The Chesapeake needs all the help it can get, because if the gulf oil spill isn't contained soon, oil will start to seep in its direction, making things even worse. The region's fabled crab industry would go straight down the toilet in that case.