Ocean Pollution

Stormwater pollution and nutrient pollution are not just freshwater issues; their impacts on the ocean are severe. Land-based activities, including sprawl development, sewage mismanagement, and under-regulated agriculture, introduce devastating pollution to sensitive bays and estuaries and threatening the health of valuable fish and shellfish fisheries.

As we pave more land on the coast and inland, rainfall is unable to percolate into the ground for cleaning and storage. Instead, it runs across pavement, collecting nutrients, pesticides, bacteria, metals, chlorides, sediments, petroleum, and automobile fluids on its way to the ocean.

Human wastewater also ends up in our oceans. In some places in New England, such as Cape Cod, that’s because most houses still use septic systems in sandy soils that don’t hold the water long enough to clean it. A similar problem affects New Hampshire’s Great Bay. But sewage systems can pollute as well. Many cities in the Northeast combine their storm water and sewage treatment facilities. Big storms frequently inundate these systems, and they expel untreated sewage and stormwater runoff into nearby waters, including bays and estuaries.

Fertilizer used on crops and lawns also ends up in our groundwater and as runoff into our streams and rivers because plants cannot fully absorb it. This source is considerable because the Clean Water Act has exempted agriculture from regulation since its inception.

Our bays and estuaries are critical nurseries for a diversity of ocean fish and home to valuable shellfish. Excess nitrogen causes massive algae blooms that choke off oxygen, rendering bays unsafe for swimming, boating, and shellfish consumption. It can also cause widespread fish kills.

CLF is working to stem this foul tide. Seeking stricter regulations for nutrient and storm water pollution and full enforcement of the Clean Water Act to hold polluters accountable, CLF is raising standards for water quality in New England and setting important precedent for the country.