Green Technologies Lead to Clear Waters
By: Annie Reisewitz and Sarah Martin
Coho salmon once flourished throughout the North Pacific, from Monterey Bay in central California up to Alaska’s Point Hope and across to Russia and Japan. Today many of those populations are extinct. With less than 10 percent of their historic population left, this iconic species holds an intrinsic economic, recreational, and cultural value. And yet, the remaining coho salmon populations continue to be threatened with extinction today.
The recent front-page story in the Seattle Times aptly illustrated the deadly effects of runoff from urban roadway on coho salmon. Salmon are entering polluted rivers and dying in as little as 2 ½ hours, before they ever have a chance to spawn.
These salmon are the ‘canaries in the coal mine’ and certainly not the only fish irreversibly damaged by pollutant-filled runoff. We are choking our marine life to death with a cocktail of toxic metals, pesticides and used motor oil, the main ingredients in storm-water runoff. Storm-water runoff is the number one cause of water pollution in urban areas.
A recent lawsuit brought by the Natural Resources Defense Council and the Environmental Defense Center forced the Environmental Protection Agency to finally act on a decade-old court order. They are required to update national regulations to protect our waterways from urban runoff by November 2016.
These new U.S. EPA regulations must take a holistic approach to ensure we fully protect our salmon and other living ecosystems and not simply band-aid the problem. First, by preventing the toxins from entering our urban storm system through green technology approaches and, second, by encouraging green infrastructures to filter out any toxins before they make it to our waterways.
For example, over 40 percent of the pollution in America’s waterways is from used motor oil. At 385 —> Read More