Making the pollution connection
Mon, Jun 08, 2009 at 9:13 PM
Just when you think the ocean is big enough to assimilate all human mistakes, think again. Our waste runoff into the ocean has caused toxic build-up in marine mammals and fish along the east coast. Eric Montie
, a doctoral student at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, has been studying the brains of several stranded dolphins, seals and whales. High amounts of PBDE (polybrominated diphenyl ethers) and PCB (polychlorinated biphenyls) were found, and now Montie is working to unearth the effects of these anthropogenic chemicals on brain development. His work is particularly important in making the connection between coastal pollution and marine mammal strandings. PCB has been linked to deteriorated sensory functions like hearing, which could explain the frequent Cape Cod beaching of dolphins that use sound for navigation.
Bringing the topic back to Maine, many of southern Maine's beaches have been closed to swimming or strongly advised against swimming due to high levels of bacteria from stormwater runoff and sewer system overflows. It is almost impossible to think of the amount of toxic runoff that must be washed into the ocean to make a bacteria test positive. The ocean is a vast sink that seems almost a black hole for pollution, but here we are today feeling the effects of toxic bacteria levels in our beach waters.
The ocean suddenly seems much smaller and more precious, which is why government agencies and local councils must work together to clean up our beaches and contain inland waste runoff. Tourism is also a huge economic driver for southern Maine; without our beaches, Maine will no longer be considered the vacationland state.
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