View Full Version : Oceans face growing threat

10/05/2006, 10:42 AM

Report: Sewage, coastal destruction threaten oceans

POSTED: 10:06 a.m. EDT, October 4, 2006

THE HAGUE, Netherlands (Reuters) -- Sewage is a growing threat to oceans and seas, putting at risk marine life and habitats as the pollution problem escalates, the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) said in a report on Wednesday.

The "State of the Marine Environment" report found that substantial progress had been achieved in reducing oily wastes and organic pollutants such as long-lived industrial chemicals in the past two decades but other problems had grown worse.

In many developing countries, between 80 and 90 percent of sewage entering coastal zones is estimated to be raw and untreated, said the report compiled by the UNEP global program of action for protection of marine environment (GPA).

The pollution -- linked to rising coastal populations, inadequate treatment infrastructure and poor waste handling facilities -- is putting at risk human health and wildlife as well as livelihoods from fisheries to tourism, it said.

"In the past we thought the ocean could be our sewage treatment plant," UNEP executive director Achim Steiner told a news conference in The Hague.

"But we cannot do that any more as even in the Arctic we see two-three times increase in concentration of mercury in seals and whales," Steiner said.

The report estimated that an additional $56 billion is needed annually to address the global sewage problem. UNEP said countries should make polluters contribute to the bill.

There is also a rising concern over the increasing damage and destruction of essential and economically important coastal ecosystems like mangrove forests -- needed for coastal defenses and fisheries, as well as coral reefs and seagrass beds.

Population pressure

Growing coastal populations and overuse of marine resources are the main source of the problem, the UNEP said. Close to 40 percent of the world's population live on the coastal fringe.

Threatened areas include the North Sea's bed, coral reefs in South East Asia, wetlands in North America, Southern and Western Africa, mangroves in many Caribbean countries, Ecuador and Colombia, and fisheries in Latin America.

The report also noted increasing levels of pollutants from sources like agricultural fertilizer, manure, sewage and fossil fuel burning, with the problem spreading from developed to developing countries as well.

This has led to doubling of the number of oxygen deficient coastal "dead zones" every decade since 1960, and degradation of seagrass beds and emergence of toxic algal blooms.

The UNEP highlighted progress made in reducing global oil and chemicals pollution. The world has cut oil discharges from industry and cities by nearly 90 percent since the mid-1980s.

But concerns of further oil pollution remain as climate change and the loss of ice is opening up the North East passage across the roof of the world to shipping and oil exploration.

The findings will be given to more than 60 member governments of the GPA initiative at a meeting in Beijing on October 16-20 to encourage a review of their planning and investment strategies to ensure they are genuinely marine-friendly, the UNEP said.

"An estimated 80 percent of marine pollution originates from the land and this could rise significantly by 2050 if, as expected, coastal populations double in just over 40 years time and action to combat pollution is not accelerated," Steiner said.

10/05/2006, 11:12 AM
Yeah, and according to the UN it is probably the U.S.'s fault. Not these other countries with no environmental regulations. The UN is a farce.

10/05/2006, 11:16 AM
... and in a related story :p http://www.cnn.com/2006/US/10/04/malibu.septic.ap/index.html

Stars' septic systems suspect in Pacific pollution
POSTED: 11:38 a.m. EDT, October 4, 2006

MALIBU, California (AP) -- The mystery: Just whose waste is befouling the most celebrity-saturated stretch of California coast?

The suspects: Malibu residents whose septic tanks might let what gets flushed down the toilet flow down the hills and into the Pacific Ocean.

The strategy: DNA testing and a pledge, if need be, to get court warrants to inspect leaky tanks buried beneath the backyards of some Hollywood stars.

"This is going to get messy," predicts Mark Pestrella, the Los Angeles County public works official tasked with the project.

Loyalty to septic systems runs deep in a city that was incorporated to stop construction of a sewer line. Residents who fiercely deny that their tanks are the source of ocean bacteria also fiercely guard their privacy and their right to flush the estimated 2,400 septic tanks in a city strung along 25 miles of coast.

After decades of wrangling, Los Angeles County officials are promising to get tough -- threats of hefty fines by clean water regulators were an important push.

During the next few months, investigators will begin testing sea water. If DNA tests show the waste is human and not from, say, raccoons or coyote, they will follow the trail up the creeks that traverse neighborhoods in Malibu, where clean water advocates such as Pierce Brosnan and Ted Danson live.

Where the tests show a concentration of human waste, inspectors will sleuth out the source. Though they will not request DNA samples from residents to match waste with its human source, they say they may ask a judge for authority to inspect the tanks of property owners who bar them from taking samples.

"It is a big deal that the county is now saying 'We're willing to go on to properties to see what the source of fecal contamination is,"' said Mark Gold, executive director of the local environmental group Heal the Bay.

Malibu leaders have argued that the pollution comes from a wastewater treatment plant, storm runoff and bird droppings. The lack of a sewer system limits development and preserves rustic details amid the million-dollar homes. Oak-shaded private paths that wind through the canyons and spill onto the beaches have attracted numerous environmentally minded celebrities over the years including Sting and Tom Hanks.

At least one Malibu resident believes septic tanks are not the problem. Actress and animal rights activist Pamela Anderson said that the real polluter is animal agriculture, such as chicken farms.

"When the results of these tests come back, I'll bet that once again we'll find that ... people's meat addiction, not their septic tanks, is causing this pollution," Anderson wrote in an e-mail through her publicist. "The best thing any of us can do to fight pollution is to adopt a vegetarian diet."

County officials initially will focus on properties with heavier commode traffic, such as restaurants and Barbra Streisand's old estate.

In 1993, the singer donated her property to the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy, a state organization that has held weddings, conferences and public tours at the 22-acre estate. Conservancy spokeswoman Dash Stolarz said the site has a sophisticated septic system and has not hosted a wedding in two years. In June, the site temporarily halted tours.

If county officials locate suspect systems, they will inform the Los Angeles Water Quality Board. The board could fine homeowners or require them to upgrade their systems at an estimated cost of $30,000.

Board president H. David Nahai said he is optimistic that residents will want to comply with the investigation.

"The very cachet of Malibu and the high property values they enjoy are dependent upon a clean ocean," he said.

Some of the areas' most famous spots, including legendary Surfrider Beach, have repeatedly received poor grades in Heal the Bay's annual beach report card. Most contamination occurs during winter when heavy rains overload storm drain and sewage systems, washing waste directly into the sea. Swimming in such waters can cause gastrointestinal, respiratory and other illnesses.

Pollutants in Santa Monica Bay have been a problem for decades. The water quality drastically declined in the 20th century as the Los Angeles area boomed and dumped sewage and trash into the ocean. In 1985, the director of Los Angeles County's health services declared septic tanks a health hazard after 12 miles of coast were closed for more than two months because of overflows.

Water quality has improved through programs mandated by the Clean Water Act and the dogged efforts of various conservation groups. A major boost came in September, when the water board decided to fine Los Angeles County and municipalities surrounding Santa Monica Bay up to $10,000 a day if they do not meet clean water standards.

Still, skeptics see the DNA testing program, which will cost an estimated $1 million, as a delay tactic that will let the county blame Malibu.

"It's time for us to find real solutions to our bacteria problems," said Tracy Egoscue, who heads the Santa Monica Baykeeper, "and stop chasing ghosts up the watershed."

10/05/2006, 11:21 AM
<a href=showthread.php?s=&postid=8281852#post8281852 target=_blank>Originally posted</a> by Anemonebuff
Yeah, and according to the UN it is probably the U.S.'s fault. Not these other countries with no environmental regulations. The UN is a farce.

EDIT: Nevermind, don't want the thread closed :p

10/05/2006, 12:24 PM
<a href=showthread.php?s=&postid=8281911#post8281911 target=_blank>Originally posted</a> by affan
EDIT: Nevermind, don't want the thread closed :p

:lol: Good idea! ;)