The definition set forth by the United Nations Group of Experts on the Scientific Aspects of Marine Pollution for marine pollution is mans' introduction of substances or energy to the marine environment resulting in hazards to human health, hindrance of marine activity, such as fishing; impairments of the quality of sea water and the reduction of amenities. It should be noted that this definition is human focused and does not take other organisms into consideration. It is therefore a bit anthropocentric.
In order to make judgments about the impact of pollution on New Haven harbor a quantitative analysis must be made on the significance of environmental impacts of inputs to the harbor. Historically, New Haven harbor was a center of population and industry. The urban and industrial wastes were discharged directly into the harbor without treatment. Today wastes from human activities being introduced to the harbor are composed of variety of sources. Degradable and dissipating wastes breakdown and rapidly dilute to harmless levels. Examples of these wastes in New Haven harbor include oil, urban sewage and heat. Conservative wastes are metals and halogenated hydrocarbons, which are essentially permanent to the ecosystem.
The inputs into New Haven harbor are complex. Most come from the surrounding industries as well as the urban population. In addition the rivers flowing into the harbor may carry amounts of pesticides and other products of agricultural activity over the area of the entire catchment area. The power station's main effluent is hot water, which also contains chlorine to evade invertebrates from settling in the cooling system. Small amounts of metals are leached from the cooling system and turbines. Urban sewage, which often gets dispersed directly into the harbor contains amounts of metals, oils and greases, detergents and industrial wastes. When these inputs of wastes result in detectable amounts by causing damage to the environment then pollution exists.
These toxins will have little environmental consequences if few individuals perish. It is only when mortality results in the reduction of a population that humans begin to take notice. Population changes of a species may cause an impact on the community of which they are part of. Although many species in the community may be affected attention is often placed on only a few key species. Indicator species, which may be resistant or sensitive to pollutants, are often monitored to determine overall health of a community.
Several programs have been put into effect to monitor New Haven harbor and Long Island Sound. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's (NOAA) Nation Status and Trends Mussel Watch Project began in 1984. Its goal is to measure contaminant concentrations in bivalve tissue and in sediments to determine temporal changes in the concentrations and document biological responses to contamination. There are 150 collection sites across the coastal United States. New Haven harbor is one of the sites. At this site the blue mussel,
is the indicator specie used.
The Long Island Sound Study began in 1985. Congress had the U.S. EPA, Connecticut and New York characterizes environmental conditions in Long Island Sound and develops and ecosystem-focused management plan. In 1994 the Comprehensive Conservation and Management Plan (CCMP) was established. This plan begins by determining the problems within the Sound and then sets forth plans to restore and protect the Sound with the help of the government. Since then goals for improvement of water quality by reducing point source and non point source pollution have been accomplished as well as the Habitat Restoration Initiative, which hopes to restore 2000 acres of coastal habitat and 100 miles for fish passage in rivers which have been blocked by dams. Water quality information from the study can be accessed by www.mysound.uconn.edu, which provides real time data on the Long Island Sounds water quality.
The Clean Water Act
The Federal Water Pollution Control Act Amendments of 1972 was enacted after Americans became more aware and concerned for water pollution. In 1977, this law became commonly known as the Clean Water Act. As a result it established initial regulations for discharging pollutants into U.S. waters. It gave the EPA the authority to implement pollution control programs such as setting wastewater standards for industry. The Clean Water Act also continued requirements to set water quality standards for all contaminants in surface waters. The Act made it unlawful for any person to discharge any pollutant from a point source into navigable waters, unless a permit was obtained under its provisions. It also funded the construction of sewage treatment plants under the construction grants program and recognized the need for planning to address the critical problems posed by nonpoint source pollution.
Today the Clean Water Act also includes the Clean Water State Revolving Fund. This new funding strategy addressed water quality needs by building on EPA-State partnerships (www.epa.gov).
Heavy metals are conservative pollutants. Metals are not subject to bacterial decomposition. Therefore they are permanent additions to our environment. These metals include:
Normally metals are essential for many biological activities such as the proper functioning of enzymes and respiratory fluids of animals. Absorption of these metals in most plants and animals is by passive diffusion. Natural inputs of metals into the sea occur from erosion of ore-bearing rocks, wind blown dust, volcanic activity and forest fires. Problems arise when the balanced natural inputs are elevated by anthropogenic sources. Metal pollution is a by-product of the Industrial Revolutions. Inputs form human activity is by atmospheric deposition, rivers and direct discharges or dumping. These human introduced metals eventually sediment out of the water column but are continuously redistributed by dredging and digging up contaminated harbor sediment.
Plant and animals differ in their ability to regulate their metal content. Most are able to excrete metals from their systems but often uptake of metals exceeds the excretion rates. When this occurs it is called bioaccumulation. Metals in the food web begin with the uptake of metal ions by marine algae. The metal is then stored in their tissues. Once ingested by an animal or absorbed through its skin or gills, metals can be concentrated as they progress from smaller to larger organisms within the food chain. The effect of metal pollution in water does not stop at the individual organism. It impacts the species as a whole, the community and the ecosystem. There have been reports that certain species disappear completely when a marine ecosystem is polluted with metals. The loss of a species can have detrimental effects to the food web (Clark, R.B. 2001).
How Much Is A Part Per Million
Metal concentrations in organisms are expressed in µg/g (parts per million) and µg/kg (parts per billion). The concentrations are calculated on the basis of wet weight and dry weight. Wet weight is the weight of a sample of a whole organism and dry weight is the weight of the tissue after drying at a temperature of 105ºC to remove unbound water.
An example to help with the parts per… idea is that if you cut a pizza pie into 10 equal pieces then each piece would be 1 part per 10. If, instead, you cut this pie into a million pieces, then each piece would be very small and would represent a millionth of the total pizza or one part per million of the total pizza. One droplet of water in an Olympic sized swimming pool can be expressed as 1 part per billion.
Local Scientists Who Have Studied Metals in New Haven Harbor and Long Island Sound
Dr. Gaboury Benoit, Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies
Dr. Benoit has conducted a Connecticut Sea Grant research project to identify the sources and quantities of heavy metal pollution in the Quinnipiac River, New Haven harbor and Long Island Sound. He found higher concentrations of metals in heavily industrialized areas.
Dr. Vincent Breslin, Southern Connecticut State University School of Science Education and Environmental Studies
Dr. Breslin is creating a sediment metal concentration database in the industrialized harbors throughout the Connecticut coastline. His research shows that in New Haven harbor the higher concentrations of sediment heavy metal concentrations are located in the inner more industrialized harbor. This area is composed of fine grain sediments. Results showed that concentrations were less as he sampled in the outer less industrialized harbor. His web site is http://www.southernct.edu/programs/utpp/breslin/