The Effects of Pollution on Puget Sound
For most Seattlites, when the Puget Sound is mentioned they envision Ferries, Orcas, Salmon, and a whole lot of breathtaking scenery that make you fall in love with Washington; however unbeknown to them, contamination in the sound has been an ongoing pain point for many government officials for decades.
The contaminants that reach the Puget Sound are the result of the discharge of over 50 wastewater treatment plants from around the area, in conjunction with the runoff wastewater from roads and storm drains. Now, more than ever Puget Sound continues to be plagued with serious water quality problems caused by too many nutrients emitted from over 4 million people living in this region .
This excessive amount of nutrient waste present in Puget Sound is causing a deterioration in the quality of water as well as damaging the habitats of the region, including the coho salmon, orcas, and other species, as researchers found . If these pollutants were to remain without treatment, they could potentially inflict the swift death of coho salmon as it migrates back to their natal streams. Research led by the University of Washington has highlighted that between 10 ~ 40% of coho salmon died before they even spawn due to pollution in the water bodies .
Isn't this a big shock for you?
So far, counties around Puget Sound have made multiple investments as millions of dollars have been spent to upgrade the urban stream designs and treatment plants to control the water quality in this region by restoring streamside vegetation, adding streambed complexity, and even treatment facilities. However, the control of point-source pollution, including wastewater treatment plants and dirty water from factories, is insufficient to minimize the damage.
Another type of pollution is the so-called nonpoint source pollution. This type of pollution means that every time it rains which is pretty common in the Pacific Northwest, the surface water will bring all kinds of pollutants from impervious surfaces — roofs, parking lots, roads, and more — and fertilized farms into storm drains and onto the rivers which to our surprise most water passes untreated into Puget Sound and damages the habitats of aquatic life .
Most recent studies show that even the tires we use in our vehicles to commute to our jobs and recreational activities are leading to a big impact on the sound as the friction of car tires on the roads leaves behind chemical residuals that eventually runoff onto our streams when it rains . Several years ago, scientists identified a chemical, 6PPD, which is used to prevent car tires from degrading, that is proven acutely toxic to coho salmon. Although it sounds terrifying, at least we have known the source of the pollutant and researchers are doing their best to combat this.
There are multiple solutions we can use to minimize the risk.
- Source elimination — removing 6PPD from the tire production
- Nonpoint Source Control — adding filtration systems to prevent excessive runoff before getting into Puget Sound
Finding a solution is critical, and it has to be done as soon as we can in an urgent time frame. Although the impact of 6PPD on humans remains unclear for now, we can’t ignore the massive loss of coho salmon due to 6PPD. If this species of salmon were to continue on this same path due to our negligence, the impacts would be dire to our daily lives, such as disturbance in the food chain, pollution accumulation & augmentation, which call all potentially lead to a public health concern.
Puget Sound as the confluence of the water streams in the Pacific Northwest has its own limit to tolerate all kinds of pollutants. The 6PPD problem is the most obvious one, but there are more problems that need to be addressed, such as high concentration of nitrogen and low oxygen level in the water bodies. Nitrogen is one of the most common elements found in the world, but when nitrogen is in the form of ammonia or nitrate and with high concentration, then it will be another big issue for our Puget Sound. We’ll introduce the pros and cons of nitrogen in our water bodies in our next article. Please keep following us.
We need to take action now, and we as AquaClear Sustainable committee to our environment and invent solutions to address problems that can be dealt with by biological treatment! Follow us!