Monterey Bay Aquarium exempted from ban on wastewater dumping

Posted: 10/28/2011 in all marine news

Susanne Rust – 

Although famous for conservation and its sustainable and environmentally friendly practices, the Monterey Bay Aquarium is also one of the largest wastewater dischargers in the protected Pacific Grove area of the bay.

Last week, the State Water Resources Control Board exempted the aquarium from a state ban on dumping wastewater in a marine protected zone.

The board decided the aquarium’s conservation and public education benefits far outweigh any dangers posed by the millions of gallons of treated fish, bird and mammal waste it dumps back into the bay.

“The Monterey Bay Aquarium’s beneficial uses include extensive public outreach and education on the marine environment, basic water quality research, and research to determine the needs and improve the quality of existence for marine life,” said David Clegern, a spokesman for the water board.

According to a report released by the board earlier this year, the aquarium takes in about 1,400 gallons of seawater a minute, 24 hours a day, every day of the year. It then discharges more than 2 million gallons a day. The system is open, meaning seawater is pumped in and discharged continually.

The board acknowledges the discharge does contain waste, albeit “at very low levels.” The only exceptions noted were copper in one seawater sample and chlorine in others.

Copper is known to be harmful to marine organisms, damaging creatures’ gills, livers, kidneys and nervous systems. Chlorine can be lethal to many organisms, including salmon and oysters, at low levels.

“None of the seawater samples exhibited toxicity effects,” the report’s authors wrote. However, storm water runoff from the aquarium contained waste and in some cases exceeded state standards.

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