Low levels of oil pollution harm herring, salmon, study finds – Seattle Times

Our knowledge of the effects of even low levels of oil on fish populations continue to grow. This will have impacts on our port, and points to more needs for storm water solutions that include eventual re-design of almost every highway in the state, to stop car runoff into our waterways. It won’t happen overnight, but is happening and will continue to, given these findings. It’s our food sources vs. business as usual with autos.

Federal scientists based in Seattle and Alaska have found that oil — by impairing heart functions — can cause serious harm to herring and pink salmon at far lower concentrations than previously documented. The research, published Tuesday online in Nature’s Scientific Reports, could help unravel the mystery of why herring stocks in Prince William Sound collapsed after the 1989 Exxon Valdez oil spill. Their work also has implications about the effects of low levels of chronic oil pollution in Puget Sound and elsewhere in the world. “What this study shows is that in very, very low concentration of oil, embryonic fish … get born with a mild heart defect,” said John Incardona, a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration toxicologist at a Seattle fisheries science center. He is one of 10 co-authors of the study. Hal Bernton reports. (Seattle Times)


Populated Puget Sound sees stark shifts in marine fish species – Phys. Org

Those of us who have been working on protecting and restoring Puget Sound and the greater Salish Sea, have known for years that human population growth is the biggest root cause of the decline in the waters. More science now arrives to point to that as well. It’s the underlying concern that we are not going to rehabilitate our waters to the levels we expect, without some pretty profound changes in land use, and our incessant demand to pour all our waste waters into the Sound as our toilet. And don’t get me started on Canadian lack of interest in protecting their waters. They are going backwards far faster than we are going forward on this issue.

The most populated areas of Puget Sound have experienced striking shifts in marine species, with declines in herring and smelt that have long provided food for other marine life and big increases in the catch of jellyfish, which contribute far less to the food chain, according to new research that tracks species over the last 40 years. The parallel trends of rising human population and declining forage fish such as herring and smelt indicate that human influences such as pollution and development may be eroding species that long dominated Puget Sound. In particular, the rise of jellyfish blooms may divert energy away from highly-productive forage species that provide food for larger fish and predators such as salmon, seabirds and marine mammals. The research by scientists from NOAA Fisheries’ Northwest Fisheries Science Center, the University of Washington and the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife was published in April in Marine Ecology Progress Series. (Phys.Org)


New proposed rules on fish consumption by Governor Inslee and DOE

The Govenor has issued a policy brief, on the issue of reducing toxic pollution called “No Single Source, No Single Solution”. In it, he explains that the Clean Water Act has been beneficial, but that new tools are needed to address emerging sources of toxic pollution. Why should you care? 

If you eat fish, especially locally caught fish, you are eating some amount of toxic pollution. The government has arbitrarily decided that the amount you eat that may be harmful is a very small portion. Most people in the NW eat much more than that portion weekly. If the government is serious about reducing the amount of toxins in your fish, it needs to force polluters not to put that in the water in the first place. Who are those polluters? Many companies are small polluters, that might be able to work with Ecology to reduce their pollution. However, there are others, that are iconic here, such as Boeing, that  see this as a distinct threat to their continued profits. They will strongly oppose this.

There are lots of good that can come from this, not just from regulating Boeing, but all the other point sources of pollution. Read the Governor’s policy brief for a more comprehensive overview, so I don’t have to repeat it here.

To quote from the WDOE press release:

The state’s updated water quality standards would ensure that no standard, except naturally occurring arsenic, becomes less protective. Seventy percent of the new standards would be more protective. Most would be from two to 20 times more protective. The remaining 30 percent of the standards would maintain the current protective standards and would not backslide. Because arsenic occurs naturally at high levels in Washington, Ecology proposes the updated arsenic standard align with the federal drinking water standard.

Ecology’s cost-benefit analysis on the updated water quality standards indicates the new standards would create minimal costs to water dischargers. Although there would be approximately 55 new polluted water listings under the proposed standards, the new water pollution listings would not immediately result in new requirements for any exist.

It’s hard to say whether, in this current legislature, the Governor’s proposal will move beyond a proposal. But it is a good idea, and it is worth supporting. It is better than the current situation.

Inslee’s pollution solution: tackle water toxics at source – AP via Bellingham Herald

Just last night at a meeting I was attending, someone brought this issue up. The abstract battle of the state setting the safe amount of fish to eat actually pits industrial giants like Boeing against tribal and other people who eat far more than the ‘usual’ amount of fish that the average American eats. If the state takes a stand on saying that larger portions are ‘safe’ then they have to do more regulations to limit industrial output of pollution. The notion of moving the authority upstream is one that environmental activists have pushed for over the last two decades.

Gov. Jay Inslee is proposing legislation to protect state waters by tackling pollution at its source and giving a state agency the authority to potentially ban the worst chemicals in products before they get into the environment. ….Phuong Le reports. (Associated Press)


Nitrates, fecal coliform from dairies linked to tainted shellfish, tap water -KOMO News

As the work continues to craft a Critical Areas Ordinance in our county, one of the key new issues is including Agriculture in it. (they were exempted in previous versions due to political pressure as mentioned in this report). This quick report highlights the concerns of those in the environmental community for crafting buffers from streams that work. Our county has been a leader in cooperative work between the farmers and those trying to restore streams such as Chimicum Creek. Hopefully we can leverage that work into something even more productive, without being heavy handed. But we also can’t just “give away the farm” so to speak. Here’s why:

Shellfish, swimming beaches, and the tap water for thousands of people in certain areas of Washington state are being contaminated by pollutants running off farms, and critics say dairy cows are the chief culprit, according to a KOMO 4 Problem Solvers investigation. Government regulators are failing to halt that pollution largely because of insufficient laws, pressure from the agriculture industry and too little enforcement, the Problem Solvers review found. Voluntary compliance and good intentions from many dairy farmers have not been enough to prevent dangerous contaminates generated by manure from getting into waters of Washington state. Only one percent of Washington’s roughly 700 dairy farms – some with thousands of cows at one facility – have a permit to pollute, say state agencies. Jeff Burnside reports. (KOMO)


Author Naomi Klein on the free market and global warming – CBC

Author and activist Naomi Klein just won the  $60k Hilary Weston Prize for her book about climate change, ‘This Changes Everything’. This is a very thought provoking interview that should give you good reason to read it. While the government of our neighbors to the north in Canada race to be match China by being the most polluting country on the planet, willing to trade any environmental protection for the almighty and in this case, appropriately named, Loonie, Naomi has focused whether the very fundamental nature of the free market is dooming us all. If you aren’t interested in reading a long book, then try a sample of her thoughts.


Shellfish Tell Puget Sound’s Polluted Tale – Earthfix

It’s always been a question mark in my mind, about how much of the bad stuff in the Sound are we eating with our delicious meals of shellfish. Now we know. And it’s a good word of caution that if you are regularly eating shellfish, that buying them from growers who are away from urban environments, or harvesting them yourself in remote places, is the best rule of thumb. And it also gives us a very easy way  to measure the recovery efforts at work. The bad news is that PCBs, long banned, continue to be found in the water, as do flame retardants. Both are cancer causing. It points out that storm water runoff and our crazy notion that we can pour our sewage into our Sound, have consequences for us.

Scientists used shellfish to conduct the broadest study to date of pollution levels along the shore of Puget Sound. And in some places, it’s pretty contaminated. This past winter the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife put mussels at more than 100 sites up and down Puget Sound. After a few months, volunteers and WDFW employees gathered the shellfish and analyzed them for metals, fossil fuel pollution, flame-retardants and other chemicals. The WDFW just released the results. [http://wdfw.wa.gov/publications/01643/] Ashley Ahearn reports. (EarthFix)



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