Category Archives: ~ Live green Promote green Business/Political Action

Orcas … a repost


orca whales facing high levels of pollution and endangerment

A brutal combination of pollution, global warming, declining prey and heavy boat traffic is sending the Puget Sound orca population to new lows ~ 2006

SEEING KILLER WHALES ply the waters of Washington State’s Puget Sound has long been a great thrill for Seattle-area residents. No other U.S. urban community can boast of resident orcas a few miles from downtown. Whale watching there is a multi-million-dollar tourist draw. As one orca expert puts it, “Everybody wants a kiss from a killer whale.”

But the thrill may soon be gone.

Three orca pods living in Puget Sound from May through October, known as the southern resident killer whale population, were declared federally endangered late last year by the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), the federal agency responsible for protecting marine species. Scientists believe the decline of wild chinook salmon–a major orca food source–as well as global warming, toxic pollution and vessel noise could eliminate this orca population, which ranges beyond Puget Sound into the San Juan Islands and Georgia Strait. “They are teetering,” says Ken Balcomb, senior scientist at the Center for Whale Research in Friday Harbor, Washington. It is “highly likely,” Balcomb adds, that this population of killer whales will be extinct within 100 years if conditions do not improve for both whales and salmon.

“The Puget Sound is our backyard,” adds James Schroeder, an NWF senior environmental policy specialist. “If it’s unhealthy for killer whales because the water is polluted, the sediments are laced with toxins and the food web has collapsed, it’s ultimately uninhabitable for humans.”

The largest members of the dolphin family, orcas weigh about 400 pounds at birth. Adults can measure more than 25 feet long, weigh more than 8 tons and sport a 6-foot dorsal fin. Females can live into their eighties.

Orcas are found in every ocean and, next to humans, are the most widely distributed mammal in the world. Two distinct types of killer whales travel the seas–transients and residents–which are distinguished by differences in genetics, language and food preference. They do not interbreed or even mingle. Transients live in small pods of three to seven and often travel far out to sea, subsisting on marine mammals such as seals, sea lions, dolphins and whales. Residents live closer to shore in pods of 10 to 20, are known for their jumping and splashing and eat only fish, which they sometimes stun with tail slaps. Transients rarely jump or splash and even use sonar less often, behaviors probably designed to avoid alerting the marine mammals they hunt.

Orcas on the Edge - Magazine Layout - Orcas Jumping

Individual orcas can be identified by distinct gray swaths on their backs and flanks near their dorsal fins, called saddle patches. Using these patches, biologists have named each of Puget Sound’s approximately 87 killer whales, which are part of a population that has been carefully studied since 1970, making them some of the best-known orcas in the world. All indications are that the southern resident population and the nearby British Columbia, or northern, resident orcas live primarily on chinook salmon, which are preferred probably because they are the largest salmon, have the highest fat content and are available year-round.

When West Coast wild chinook stocks plummeted in the mid-1990s, the southern resident orca population dropped from 99 in 1995 to about 80 in 2001. The northern resident population went from 219 to 202 during roughly the same time period. “Mortality in some years was 300 percent greater than we expected,” says John K.B. Ford of Fisheries and Oceans Canada–Canada’s lead federal manager of oceans and inland waters–who has studied killer whales for 30 years.

West Coast waters once were rich with wild salmon. The Columbia and Snake Rivers alone produced between 10 million and 16 million salmon yearly, the majority of them chinook. Overfishing in the late 1800s and early 1900s, followed by decades of dam building, logging and other salmon-habitat destruction have reduced wild salmon to a fraction of their original abundance. Today, Columbia and Snake River wild fish runs number only in the tens of thousands. “Perhaps the single greatest change in food availability for resident killer whales since the late 1800s has been the decline of salmon in the Columbia River basin,” according to the NMFS draft orca recovery plan. Even British Columbia’s resident killer whales, declared threatened by Canada in 2001, feed on Columbia and Snake River salmon. “In order to save our orcas, we need to save the salmon runs that sustain them,” Schroeder says.

Beleaguered salmon populations are now further jeopardized by a new challenge, global warming, which is heating some rivers and streams to temperatures lethal to fish. The average temperature of British Columbia’s Fraser River, for example, increased about 1.8 degrees F from 1953 to 1998, yielding a 50-percent mortality rate among the river’s sockeye salmon. “The higher river temperatures are largely due to global warming, as opposed to dams and other significant human-caused problems,” says Patty Glick, an NWF global warming specialist. The Canadian Ministry of Environment agrees. Citing the fact that the climate is warming, the ministry declared in a 2002 report that logging, agriculture and industrial factors have small impact on river temperature “in comparison to the impact of climate change.”

Warming oceans pose another problem–they produce less food for salmon and other fish. Oceans also absorb carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas produced by burning coal and other fossil fuels. This absorption changes the acidity of seawater, which could have catastrophic consequences for marine life. In addition, global warming is expected to alter the timing and amount of precipitation that keeps water flowing in the rivers and streams where salmon spawn. As rain and snowfall patterns change, chinook runs that now occur throughout the year could be confined to just a few of the wetter months–leaving Puget Sound orcas without salmon for long periods of time.

Salmon scarcity actually hits orcas with a one-two punch. The decline in food is a problem on the one hand, while the toxicity of the fish is a problem on the other. Puget Sound is steeped in toxics from pulp and paper mills, oil refineries, ports, boatyards and storm-water runoff. Salmon and other fish store in their bodies toxic pollutants they absorb from this environment. As a result of eating these contaminated fish, Puget Sound killer whales have some of the highest concentrations of highly carcinogenic polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) of any marine mammal in the world, says Gary Wiles, a wildlife biologist with the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife. They also have high levels of polybrominated diphenyl ethers, which are toxic fire retardants.

As salmon numbers dwindle, killer whales burn blubber to survive, transferring toxics from blubber to vital organs. “When orcas metabolize fat that’s 1,000 parts per million PCBs, it’s phenomenally toxic,” Balcomb says. “Even trace amounts of PCBs disrupt the orcas’ endocrine systems, adversely affecting reproduction and their immune systems. We have seen whales become emaciated and disappear. And lots of reproduction-age females are not reproducing.”

Noise from the thousands of aquatic vessels cruising orca range may compound the food scarcity problem. Puget Sound is teeming with ferries, naval flotillas, whale-watching boats and other noisy craft that interfere with sonar, the clicking sounds orcas use like radar to find salmon. “There’s probably a lot of synergistic interactions between these stressors,” Ford says. “When there are fewer salmon, the whales have to work harder to find food. More noise may make it harder to find those fewer fish. The increased nutritional stress may lead to immuno-suppression and make the orcas more susceptible to disease.”

Orcas on the Edge - Magazine Layout - Killer Whale Pod

Saving Puget Sound orcas will require cleaning up toxic waste sites, stemming storm-water pollution and stopping global warming. The most critical step, however, is restoring salmon runs so orcas have enough to eat. “The Snake River basin once produced more than a third of all the chinook in the Columbia River basin,” Schroeder says. “If the federal government would take out the four outdated lower Snake River dams, it would go a long way toward recovering endangered Columbia River salmon and Puget Sound killer whales.”

A measure the government actually is taking also is likely to help the orcas. NMFS in June proposed new restrictions on development in about 2,500 square miles of inland waters, from Olympia, Washington, north to the Canadian border. The proposal, which covers almost all of Puget Sound, could be final as early as November, requiring any projects using federal funds or conducted under federal permits to include orca protections.

In the end, orca conservation is about a lot more than saving the Puget Sound’s magnificent killer whales. “We ignore this looming environmental problem at our own peril,” Balcomb says. “The orcas are the ultimate indicator of the health of the marine ecosystem. And that ecosystem is two-thirds of our planet.”

Washington journalist Ken Olsen wrote about farmers restoring sage grouse habitat in the April/May issue.


Killer: It’s a Name, Not an Accusation
In recent years, the killer whale has been more commonly called “orca” to avoid the negative connotations of “killer” and perhaps to avoid calling this dolphin species a whale. Nevertheless, most biologists still treat “killer whale” as the accepted common name. It is derived from the name Basque whalers gave the species: ballena asesina–“whale killer”–an appropriate moniker for a predator that hunts and eats whales. The scientific name is Orcinus orca, derived from the Latin word for “vat,” apparently a reference to the animal’s barrel-shaped body.

NWF at Work: Saving Puget Sound Wildlife
Through partnerships with various government agencies, Indian tribes, industries and other conservation organizations, NWF’s Western Natural Resource Center in Seattle is focusing on the protection and recovery of threatened and endangered species in the Puget Sound area, including Pacific salmon and orcas; toxic pollution; habitat fragmentation; global warming and other issues. NWF nationally is working with U.S. policymakers and engaging concerned citizens such as hunters, anglers and bird-watchers to advance regional and national strategies to reduce global warming pollution and to help wildlife survive a rapidly changing environment. For more information on NWF’s efforts to restore the health of Puget Sound, go to What We Do.

    Meeting global air quality guidelines could prevent 2. 1 million deaths per year

Resource:

Environmental Chemistry USD  from echemusd.blogspot.com 2010

sciencedaily.com

nwf.org

The Clean Water Act 1972


Summary of the Clean Water Act

Quick Links

33 U.S.C. §1251 et seq. (1972)

The Clean Water Act (CWA) establishes the basic structure for regulating discharges of pollutants into the waters of the United States and regulating quality standards for surface waters. The basis of the CWA was enacted in 1948 and was called the Federal Water Pollution Control Act, but the Act was significantly reorganized and expanded in 1972. “Clean Water Act” became the Act’s common name with amendments in 1972.

Under the CWA, EPA has implemented pollution control programs such as setting wastewater standards for industry. We have also set water quality standards for all contaminants in surface waters.

The CWA made it unlawful to discharge any pollutant from a point source into navigable waters, unless a permit was obtained. EPA’s National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit program controls discharges. Point sources are discrete conveyances such as pipes or man-made ditches. Individual homes that are connected to a municipal system, use a septic system, or do not have a surface discharge do not need an NPDES permit; however, industrial, municipal, and other facilities must obtain permits if their discharges go directly to surface waters.

Compliance and Enforcement

History of this Act

More Information

The Office of Water (OW) ensures drinking water is safe, and restores and maintains oceans, watersheds, and their aquatic ecosystems to protect human health, support economic and recreational activities, and provide healthy habitat for fish, plants, and wildlife.

  • The EPA Watershed Academy provides training courses on statutes, watershed protection, and other key Clean Water Act resources.

U.S. Waters Polluted by 10 Million Tons of Dog Poop


U.S. Waters Polluted by 10 Million Tons of Dog Poop

The 78 million dogs living in the United States create 10 million tons of feces annually, polluting waterways and posing a threat to public health, according to a pet waste removal service asking Americans to pledge to scoop the poop this Earth Day.

Dog Waste Threatens Public Health

“Dog waste is an environmental pollutant. In 1991, it was placed in the same health category as oil and toxic chemicals by the Environmental Protection Agency,” explains Virginia-based pet waste removal company Doody Calls in a press release. “The longer dog waste stays on the ground, the greater a contamination becomes. Bacteria, worms and other parasites thrive in waste until it’s washed away into the water supply.”

USAToday reports that 40% of dog owners do not pick up their dog’s waste at all and all that waste pollutes waterways. Because scientists are able to track the origin of the fecal bacteria to the species that excreted it, we even know how much. One study showed as much as 90% of the fecal coliform in urban stormwater was of non-human origin, mostly dog.

In just a couple of days, 100 dogs can deposit enough bacteria to temporarily close a bay, and all  watershed areas within 20 miles of it,                     to swimming  and fishing. Officials in Seattle consider waste from the city’s million dogs to be a major pollution source of Puget Sound. Dogs have also been shown to be a major source of water contamination in Clearwater, FL; Arlington, VA; and Boise, ID.

So What’s a Responsible Dog Owner to Do?

If you live in Cambridge, MA, you can drop your dog’s leavings into methane digesters to power the lights in some parks. If you live in Jefferson County, CO, you can join the poop patrol to remind your neighbors that there is no dog poo fairy (seriously). For the rest of us, the Natural Resources Defense Council has the following recommendations:

  • First, you definitely should not let your dog’s droppings lay near water ways, curbs, or even in your yard. What you should do is . . .
  • Wrap it in a plastic bag (biodegradable, corn-derived, or regular) and put it in the trash (though not all municipalities allow this).
  • Flush it. Dog waste can be managed by most sewage treatment systems and some septic tanks. (Do not flush cat waste because the parasite Toxoplasma gondii can survive sewage treatment plants.)
  • Install an underground pet waste digester. Basically a septic tank just for your pet.
  • Bury it in your yard. Keep pet waste away from vegetable gardens, the water table, and streams and buried at least 5 inches deep. Always cover fresh waste with with dirt.
  • Hire a poop collection service. Services will patrol your yard for poop on a weekly or bi-weekly schedule.  What a service does with the waste will vary, but you won’t have to handle it yourself.

Related Reading

The Cool Way To Clean Up After Your Dog [Video]

Lights Powered by Dog Poop! (VIDEO)

NRDC Study Finds U.S. Beaches More Polluted Than Ever

The Truth About Coconut Water


 By
WebMD Expert Column

Low in calories, naturally fat- and cholesterol free, more potassium than four bananas, and super hydrating – these are just a few of the many benefits ascribed to America’s latest health craze: coconut water.

Dubbed “Mother Nature’s sports drink” by marketers, the demand is skyrocketing, propelled by celebrity and athlete endorsements and promises to hydrate the body and help with a whole host of conditions, from hangovers to cancer and kidney stones.

But is coconut water capable of delivering on all the promises or is it hype?

What Is Coconut Water?

Naturally refreshing, coconut water has a sweet, nutty taste. It contains easily digested carbohydrate in the form of sugar and electrolytes. Not to be confused with high-fat coconut milk or oil, coconut water is a clear liquid in the fruit’s center that is tapped from young, green coconuts.

It has fewer calories, less sodium, and more potassium than a sports drink. Ounce per ounce, most unflavored coconut water contains 5.45 calories, 1.3 grams sugar, 61 milligrams (mg) of potassium, and 5.45 mg of sodium compared to Gatorade, which has 6.25 calories, 1.75 grams of sugar, 3.75 mg of potassium, and 13.75 mg of sodium.

 
Better Than Some Sugary Drinks

Coconut water has less sugar than many sports drinks and much less sugar than sodas and some fruit juices. Plain coconut water could be a better choice for adults and kids looking for a beverage that is less sweet. But don’t overdo it, says Lillian Cheung, DSc, RD, of Harvard School of Public Health. “One 11-ounce container has 60 calories and if you drink several in one day, the calories can add up quickly,” Cheung says.

Cheung, co-author of Savor Mindful Eating, Mindful Life, suggests being mindful about beverage choices and reading labels to choose plain coconut water and avoid those with added sugar or juices, which are no different from other sugary beverages.