Blog  /  June 2017  /  Marine Pollution and Associated Funding

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In the Western and Mid-Atlantic regions, there is a myriad of concerns that are related to marine pollution, marine debris, runoff, and invasive species, to name a few. Safeguarding these coastal areas necessitates plans and funding that limit marine pollution. Funding for projects to prevent marine pollution follow different pathways within the Western and Mid-Atlantic states.

Marine debris is defined by the California Coastal Commission as “any persistent solid material that is manufactured or processed and directly or indirectly, intentionally or unintentionally, disposed of or abandoned into the marine environment.” In the Western region, major sources of marine debris include nonpoint types such as stormwater runoff, pollution from wastewater facilities and other point sources, and waste disposal practices such as discharging treated effluent through large pipelines far out in the ocean.  In order to combat this, California’s State Water Resources Control Board provides financial assistance programs for a number of projects, including nonpoint source pollution control types designed to reduce the amount of runoff and other marine debris that enters the ocean.  Elsewhere in the region, Washington’s Department of Ecology offers funding dedicated to protecting coastal areas through aquatic invasive plant management and watershed protection and restoration programs, while The Burning Foundation finances projects in Oregon concerned with preserving the health of aquatic habitats and critical fish species.  Additionally, the Alaska Conservation Foundation offers grant funds that protect water resources by limiting ocean contaminants.

The Mid-Atlantic region faces environmental challenges from marine pollution caused by natural and anthropogenic activities.  Forty years after the passage of the Clean Water Act, oceans and other water bodies are still the dumping ground of industrial and municipal wastewater.  Excessive nitrogen and phosphorous in agricultural and horticultural runoff causes dense growth of cyanobacteria in the Chesapeake Bay, thereby forming dead zones that are uninhabitable by aquatic organisms. 

One possible way to address runoff in the Mid-Atlantic region is to mitigate and prevent nonpoint source pollution, point source pollution, and drainage from entering water bodies. For example, New Jersey’s Department of Environmental Protection aids these efforts by advancing watershed planning and addressing Total Maximum Daily Loads.  Furthermore, in Maryland, Pennsylvania, and Virginia, stormwater infrastructure rehabilitation and the implementation of watershed best management practices are being considered to deter nonpoint source pollution produced naturally or by human activity.

Additionally, natural processes and human activities (e.g. high-speed boating) continually erode the shorelines. The Mid-Atlantic states have implemented living shorelines that utilize a variety of structural and organic materials, including wetland plants, submerged aquatic vegetation, oyster reefs, coir fiber logs, sand fill, and stone. These projects are designed to reinforce the shoreline habitats of aquatic and terrestrial life, control erosion, and improve water quality.

Regardless of the source of marine pollutants in the Western and Mid-Atlantic coastal regions, the effects are devastating across the board. With continued stresses to financial resources, such as the recent cuts to EPA funding, now more than ever there needs to be a concerted effort on combatting the causes of such pollution through prevention and remediation.