Water Pollution

The societies of this world need to wake up, and not only listen to, but understand that it is time to find better ways of dealing with wastes, rather than nonchalantly dumping it into our oceans. For decades people in societies worldwide have taken advantage of the Earths waters simply by dumping whatever they do not want into them. Apparently our time of easy disposal has run out, the oceans and the life within our showing distinct signs of poor health. The continuous dumping (or traditional dumping) of industrial wastes as well as sewage and garbage into the oceans is beginning to show definite signs of pollution caused stress. The National Research Council recently published information stating that human intervention has begun to take its toll on the marine environment. The ecological balance of oceans worldwide are at a dangerously unstable state, the effects of man-made pollutants introduced into the waters and seas are having severe consequences upon the marine life living there. There is much that needs to be accomplished before scientists can fully understand how bad our oceans and seas really are.

Even more importantly, is the fact that environmental action must be taken now to reduce the oceans growing plight. Arguably the most contributing polluters to our oceans are the major industries of the world. Industrial ocean pollution has incorporated a wide variety of polluters, ranging from major oil spills dispersing toxic chlorinated hydrocarbons (the resultant of the breakdown of petroleum) to PCB=s (polychlorinated biphenyls) as well as DDT=s (dichloro-diphenyl trichloroethane, which is banned in the U.S. but still largely used in third world countries) all of which are used widely in chemical pesticides and detergents The introduction of oil into our oceans occurs in three major ways; by tanker accidents, faulty underwater pipelines, or oilrig blowouts. The times atlas of oceans lists one hundred eighty-six tanker accidents between the years 1970 – 1985. Each accident was given an estimated oil-spill of ten thousand barrels (1,130 tons) or more.

Potentially more disastrous are the oilrig blowouts, since they are more difficult than the tanker accidents. For example, in January 1969 an underwater oil drill exploded in the Santa Barbara Channel off the California coast. For nearly two weeks crude oil was polluted into the channel at nearly twenty-one thousand gallons a day. To this day wildlife experts are calling this spill the worst to ever hit the California coast, affecting over thirty different beaches, and killing thousands of birds, seals, and dolphins as well as affecting hundreds of different species of fish. Oil breaks down into different compounds, depending on the molecular structure of the crude. It breaks down by the process of evaporation which leads to the process of dissolution, which in turn leads to emulsification and finally to biodegradation.

Evaporation occurs after the first few hours after the oil has been introduced into the water. The best-known way to evaporate the crude is to set it on fire, but this can only be done within a few hours after the oil spill due to having sufficient amount of pure flammable oil to ignite. After the evaporation process the dissolution process begins. The density of the oil will determine just how long the oil will stay at the surface of the water, or how long it will take for the oil slick to break apart and dilute itself. If the oil is relatively light then the period of dilution shall be relatively shorter. Whereas if the oil is heavier in mass, the outcome is a highly persistent water-in-oil emulsion of semi-solid lumps known as chocolate mousse or more appropriately called tar balls. The latter is potentially more dangerous in a sense that the breakdown period, as well as the outcome of these tar balls is unknown. One known outcome is for the tar balls to sink to the bottom of the ocean and lie undisturbed for an unknown period of time. Here scientists have discovered is where the turmoil begins to discretely affect the food chain.

The dilution of oil can affect the marine life in many deadly ways. The releases of toxic chlorinated hydrocarbons, as well as the clouds of chocolate mousse (tar balls) are just two examples of the breaking down and diluting of crude petroleum. Anne Simon, author of Neptunes Revenge, describes the effects of clouded water (due to oil pollution) upon the sea life as death due to lack of oxygen. Fish rely on oxygen to survive just as we humans do, but to obtain this oxygen the fish go through a completely different process of inhalation, as compared to humans. As a fish sucks water into its body, it also pushes water out of its thin-walled filament gills. This is where the exchange of carbon dioxide for oxygen takes place. With each gulp of water a fish takes in seventy five percent of the oxygen in that water is distributed throughout the fishs bloodstream Therefore, if there is not enough oxygen in the water, or the gills of fish become clogged with oily sediments, then the fish will suffocate and die; hence the effect of oil-polluted clouds.

This dilemma has been observed frequently in previous years, for example in 1988 a report published by Anastasia Toufexis in Time Magazine describes New Jerseys Raritan Bay, in which as much as one million Fluke and flounder were killed… when they became trapped in anoxic water… On the same note, the effects of toxic chlorinated hydrocarbons introduced into the oceans by the breaking down of oil have similar effects upon the marine life. Dr. K.A. Gourlay reveals to us just how deadly toxic hydrocarbons are and how they not only affect the marine life, but the human population as well. Waste ingredients such as heavy metals, or toxic hydrocarbons, do not disintegrate easily, just the opposite however, they decompose very slowly and are all too often bioaccumulated in the flesh and tissues of fish and mammals, posing a direct threat to the human population as a major consumer of fish.

A horrifying example of this was recorded when a small coastal town in Japan underwent a tragic epidemic. In 1953 the people and domestic cats there were suffering from severe neurological disorders that ultimately led to death. After a lengthy investigation, it was discovered that both species (feline and human) were suffering from acute mercury poisoning brought about by contaminated fish. Research revealed that the consumption of contaminated fish and shrimp were ensuing culprits. Anthony Tucker, a scientist helping with the research explained, anyone who eats one normal fish a day contaminated by toxins will most certainly be disabled and more than likely die. Likewise, biologist Gregory Karras a member of Citizens For a Better Environment, also recognizes the severe consequences of the toxic food chain, fish and shellfish that have absorbed toxins can indirectly pass the contaminants to humans.

Birds migrating from Central America and the Arctic Circle, for example, make a stopover in San Franciscos wetlands, where they feast on clams and mussels that contain high concentrations of cadmium, mercury, and lead. The birds become so polluted that there is a risk from eating the ducks from the South Bay of San Francisco. Also, state officials in New York have warned against eating more than half a pound of Bluefish a week, and to never eat the striped bass caught off of long island. The New England regional administrator for EPA has also been quoted on the distraught of toxic contaminated seafood; anyone who eats the liver from a lobster taken from an urban area in New England is living dangerously. Similarly on the west coast of the United States, the sale of mackerel has been outlawed. Research has revealed impermissible human consumption of this species of Mackerel due to highly excessive amounts of toxic found in the fishs flesh and tissue. Unfortunately, the other side effects of toxins are beginning to appear worldwide.

Scientists have recently noticed an increasing rate of mortality in marine mammals, dolphins, harbor seals, and sea lions just to name a few. In June of 1988 over one hundred sea lions had been diagnosed as suffering from Leptospirosis, a bacterial disease affecting the kidneys. Because of the outbreak being local, to a region where there is oil exploration, the center has involved the EPA to investigate whether the symptoms are associated with the high levels of metal toxins polluted in that area. During the same month of that year, residents on the Danish island of Anholt have witnessed a shocking shore washing of more than one hundred and fifty dead or dying North Sea Seals. Scientists there are under the strong impression that the seals immune systems may have been weakened by chemical pollutants in the water, making them susceptible to various types of viruses. Even more horrific, was the direct effect of chemicals on surfers of Northern Californias Humboldt Bay. The local surfers there began complaining of sinus infections as well as sore throats and skin rashes. After a short investigation, it turned out to be the result of untreated toxic chemicals dumped into the ocean by nearby pulp mills.

The regional EPA then tested the level of toxicity upon sea urchin sperm and eggs; fertilization was halted. The EPA then immediately stopped the dumping, placed healthy fines upon the paper mills and set new regulations for treatment. Pollution is the introduction of substances or energy into the marine environment that cause harm to the living resources of the oceans or humans that use those resources. A prime example of pollution would be the case of the garbage littered island of Ducie Atoll in the South Pacific. This uninhabited is one of the most remote in the world, the nearest inhabited island is two hundred and ninety three miles away, yet Ducie Atolls beaches are littered with garbage ranging from toy dolls to plastic food and drink containers. More importantly, is the amount of plastic garbage on Ducie Atoll and throughout the oceans. The problems occurring from the disposal of plastic products are enormous as well as outrageous, the most important of which has to be the impact of plastic pollution upon marine life, and Animals are killed when they ingest or become entangled in the plastic debris.

The National Marine Mammal laboratory concluded that up to forty thousand seals a year are dying of plastic entanglements. This exceptionally large number is attributed to the playful demeanor of the seals. Seals find the fragments of plastic debris or netting curiously playful, the result of the seals curiousness can be ultimately lethal. If plastic netting or beverage six-pack rings can find there way around a seals neck, death is inevitable. The seal is Unable to extricate itself; the animal eventually drowns, starves to death, or dies of exhaustion or of infection from the deep wounds caused by the netting or drink holders. Another deadly affect of plastic pollution is upon the different species of birds found out and around the seas and oceans. Along Floridas coasts the Brown Pelican sometimes will dive for fishermens bait and unfortunately get hooked. Most fishermen will then release the bird by cutting their fishing line, assuming the bird will be all right.

Unfortunately this is not true, the birds may become entangled in the line cutting off circulation and either maiming itself or killing itself. Sea turtles also suffer from plastic debris floating out at sea; they mistakenly accept plastic-transparent bags as jellyfish or food, which they choke on very easily. The severity of this problem is astounding. Many scientist believe that the effects of plastic pollution upon the marine environment is by far most devastating, even more so than industrial oil and waste pollution. David Laist, a senior policy and program analyst for the United States Marine Mammal Commission said, you could see animals struggling to survive at individual oil spill sites, but those dangers are concentrated at one place. With plastic pollution its a different situation.

Plastics are like individual mines floating around the oceans just waiting for victims. In Conclusion, we need to take more positive steps toward a cleaner, safer and more enjoyable oceans and seas. But there is much that needs to be done, societies worldwide must realize that the Earths oceans are not the solution to waste disposal; they are however the homes of millions of species of organisms and animals. With increasing amounts of awareness, people worldwide can reduce the flow of wastes and garbage dumped into the oceans and halt industrial pollution altogether. With the positive attitude people can make a difference and restore some of the lost luster to our tarnished forgotten waters.