environmental law organization is challenging the U.S. Environmental Protection
Agency in court over what it says is the EPA’s failure to identify Oregon
waters that are impaired by ocean acidification. That identification as
impaired would allow Oregon to enforce pollution controls and other protective
Center for Biological Diversity filed the suit Nov. 27 in U.S. District Court
of Oregon in Eugene, saying that according to the federal Clean Water Act the
EPA must finalize its rulemaking on a list of impaired waters Oregon submitted
in 2014, including acidified marine waters that Oregon had not included in its
impaired waters list.
to the Center’s opening complaint in court, ocean acidification occurs when the
ocean absorbs carbon dioxide emissions from the atmosphere and the carbon
dioxide reacts with seawater, lowering the ocean’s pH and making it more acidic.
“In addition, land-based pollution in the form of nutrient runoff and other
local sources increases acidity,” the complaint says.
complaint is at https://www.biologicaldiversity.org/campaigns/endangered_oceans/pdfs/Oregon-Ocean-Acidification-303d-Complaint.pdf
removes calcium carbonate from seawater, making it difficult for marine
organisms to build the shells they need for protection. “Consequently,
shellfish in Oregon have experienced a dramatic collapse in production.
Beginning in 2005, billions of oyster larvae have perished in the Pacific
Northwest hatcheries that rely on the region’s seawater, with some hatcheries
losing up to 80 percent of their larvae,” the complaint says, linking the
oyster problems with acidification.
is affecting the Pacific Northwest’s coastal waters at rates and magnitudes
greater than scientists had previously estimated and has already reached levels
that were not predicted until the end of the century, the Center says.
oceans absorb 22 million tons of CO2 pollution every day, which is changing the
water’s chemistry, it continues.
the CWA, states are required every two years to identify impaired bodies of
water. When the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality submitted its 2012
CWA Sec. 303(d) list Nov. 5, 2014, it didn’t include ocean acidification and
its impact on marine waters.
partially approved and partially disapproved Oregon’s impaired water body list.
It disapproved the list because Oregon had not included some 332 impaired
bodies of water. EPA proposed to add these water bodies to Oregon’s list, the
its partial disapproval, EPA solicited data and information on ocean
acidification impacts to marine waters in Oregon,” the complaint says. “EPA
described the numerous lab and field studies that show impacts to shellfish and
other marine life under corrosive conditions and acknowledged that data
conclusively demonstrated corrosive conditions off the Oregon coast.”
it didn’t complete the list, identify Oregon marine waters impaired by
acidification or finalize the rulemaking, something it’s required to do within
30 days of receiving Oregon’s 303(d) list, the complaint says.
state has the authority to control pollutants after a water body is listed as
the state or EPA must establish total maximum daily loads of pollutants that a
water body can receive and still attain water quality standards,” the complaint
says. “States then implement the maximum loads by incorporating them into the
state’s water quality management plan and controlling pollution from point and
have absorbed about 30 percent of the CO2 released into the atmosphere by human
activities. Much of that comes from
fossil fuel use and deforestation, according to the complaint. The CO2
concentration is over 400 parts per million and continues to rise over two
parts per million per year. The ocean will continue to absorb CO2 until it
reaches equilibrium with the atmosphere.
human sources of carbon dioxide have changed the pH of oceans an average of
0.11 units since the Industrial Revolution – a thirty percent increase in
acidity,” the complaint says. “By the end of the century, the pH of the world’s
oceans is predicted to drop by another 0.3 to 0.5 units, amounting to a 100 to
150 percent increase in acidity.”
coastal waters are “especially vulnerable” to acidification due to nutrient
runoff and algal blooms, along with high CO2 runoff. The complaint says that
human sources are a major contributor to the nutrient loads along the Oregon
acidification is already at levels that were not predicted until the end of the
century,” the complaint says. “The entire West Coast is currently experiencing
an upwelling of ‘corrosive acidified’ waters onto the continental shelf,
exposing shellfish and plankton in surface waters to corrosive conditions.
CBB, December 2, 2016, “Research Links Ocean Acidification To Dissolving Shells
Of Pteropods, Key Part Of Marine Food Chain,” http://www.cbbulletin.com/438037.aspx