Monday, 20 September 2010

Storm Water Is a Silent Marine Species Killer

September 20th, 2010

According to official statistics, numerous fish die each year in streams in the United States before they even have a chance to deposit their eggs. The cause for this mass dying is none other than storm water.

Naturally, we're not talking here about the “common” variety, the one that falls from the sky, but about the rainwater that first passes through cities and gutters before making its way into streams.

While regular water cannot harm fish, the liquid that comes from cities most definitely can. Before it makes its way into small rivers or streams, it collects a number of things that you wouldn't want to know the fish you eat contains.

Some of the things rainwater collects and then shoots into streams include grease, antifreeze, oil, heavy metal chemicals, pesticides, fertilizers, soap, detergents, bacteria and feces.

Pesticides can kill very easily on their own, either through direct contamination, or through promoting the development of algal blooms, which strip the water around of its oxygen, essentially suffocating fish and other species.

As these toxic chemicals pass through bodies of running water, they contaminate everything in their path, triggering the death of countless fish each year.

The damage in lose profits has never been fully quantified, but scientists believe the damage could well be in the millions of dollars annually, maybe even more.

At this point, reducing or cleaning up runoff water is the only way for people, businesses and authorities to ensure that they don't pollute their own environment beyond recognition.

The contaminants not only affect streams, but the hydrological network in its entirety. After killing fish swimming upstreams, they make their way into larger rivers, and then eventually into oceans.

Once there, the pollutants can either contaminate animals directly, or can combine to produce so-called “dead zones,” which are basically areas lacking oxygen.

And even the smallest cities produce waist amounts of runoff water. For example, the city of Port Angeles dumped more than 25 million gallons of sewage and storm water into the city’s bay in 2009 alone.

In the central Puget Sound region, a good rain makes about 26,600 gallons of storm water flow from the roof of a single house. There are an estimated 1.5 million homes in the state.

Solutions to this problem are at hand, and they include, for example, developing rain gardens on private properties. These are small areas which can trap vast volumes of water, if they are carefully designed.

Another approach could be to transform roofs and driveways into “sponges,” by covering them up with plants and other water-absorbing materials. But this needs to be done at a large scale, and as soon as possible, Our World reports.

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