Saturday, January 3, 2009

Contaminated San Francisco Estuary Still Contaminated Despite the NEP

Do you live in California? Lately, there have been reports that striped bass baby fish or fingerlings found in San Francisco estuary are deformed. In fact, studies reveal that even while in the mother fish 's womb, the developing larvae shows signs of abnormality. Some parts have yellowed areas indicative of blistered and dead tissues and the spinal cord is unusually curved. What this information is telling us, is that the San Francisco estuary and the fish from its waters is unsafe.

What is an estuary? An estuary is that part of the bay area where the river water and ocean water meets usually near a coast. Before 1987, prior to the establishment of the National Estuary Program (NEP), estuaries were considered as worthless and were commonly used as dumping sites. Hence, out of the 102 estuaries found in the US, 28 estuaries were considered as threatened and were placed under the National Estuary Program for rehabilitation and control. The San Francisco estuary is one those placed under this program.

Then why are the fish in San Francisco estuary contaminated or deformed? The waters in San Francisco estuary is still contaminated inspite of being under the National Estuary Program (NEP) for more than twenty years. Cleaning up the San Francisco estuary is not an easy task and may take more than what it took to clean up the other estuaries. This is simply because the contamination found in this estuary dates back from 1848 when the mining industries were booming in California due to the famous California "gold rush". Mining companies meant the use of mercury and the estuary then was their dumping sites, hence San Francisco estuary was the recipient of a legacy of toxic wastes.

The pollution of the estuary didn't stop there either, studies showed that the presence of copper is also high in the list of pollutants as California went into modernization. As California progressed, so did the quality of the pollutants that were deposited in the estuary. Flame retardants, chemicals used in making paper goods, electric transformers, pesticides and a wide range of chemicals that were banned decades ago are also the contributing pollutants in the waters of San Francisco estuary. So one need not wonder why it's taking too long for the NEP to cleanup these waters, more than one century and a half of toxic wastes have been deposited in this area. 

So now do you live in San Francisco, California? 

For more information about San Francisco and other estuaries, read a related article entitled 
"Water Contamination in San Francisco Estuary Blamed for Deformities in Baby Fish" by following this link. 

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