Jess Parsons, who lives across the street from Cato Oil in Salisbury, sees no problem with the industries that line the Wicomico River; in fact he sees no problem with the water quality, at all. He attributes any murkiness in the water to the river’s natural structure. “It’s not a fast flowing river. It’s never going to look clean,” Jess remarked. “It’s not a deep river either.” These conditions trap debris and cycle sediments, so they cloud the water column. This seems relatively harmless when compared to other claims on what toxic substances have infiltrated the water way from sewage, agriculture, oil, and other industrial sources.
Jess does not believe that people should fear the water that flows down the Wicomico. “There’s always some type of trash, but there’s not a lot of what, you would call, really nasty stuff. If there was, then I wouldn't let my boys swim in it.” However, even they do not swim in the water that flows through the heart of Salisbury. They jump in closer to the mouth of the river towards Ellis Bay, where the shore is covered in thick vegetation rather than factories and impervious surfaces. The open channel exchanges water with the bay, and the pollutants are more rapidly diluted and swept away.
Another source of pollution that seems to disappear as one moves away from the city is the constant lights and noise. When they go out camping with the Boy Scouts further down the Wicomico River, Jess recalled that on a pitch black night “the sky just opens up and you can see all kinds of stuff.”
Sometimes it’s good to get away from your daily routine and go enjoy nature. The simple things are often surprisingly meaningful. Jess’s kids love exploring the marshes; the dirt and bug bites are more a badge of pride than a nuisance. As he said, “boys and mud, they kind of go hand in hand.”