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In the spring of 2016, Puget Sound juvenile salmon and sculpin were found to be on drugs - that is, the flesh of these fish was found to be contaminated with 81 different types of drugs and personal care chemicals. The list included Prozac, Advil, Benadryl, Lipitor and cocaine. The discovery was alarming and led to a slew of investigative reports on the reason behind the fish contamination. Several different possible explanations for the fish contamination were presented - was there a failure in wastewater treatment plants? Were septic tanks leaking? 

It was found that about 97,000 pounds of chemicals are introduced to Puget Sound every year, and not all these chemicals are monitored in wastewater treatment. Even more concerning is that fact that the toxicity of many of the detected chemicals are poorly understood. Scientists in the region were most concerned with the environmental and ecological impacts of the contamination. Impacts on people were a minimal concern because juvenile salmon and sculpin are not typically eaten as food. However, studies have shown that fish migrating through Puget Sound’s contaminated water die at twice the rate of fish migrating through uncontaminated water. This could be because of the effects of chemicals on fish growth, immune function and antibiotic resistance. 

It is important to note that Puget Sound is home to 106 public wastewater treatment plants, all of which discharge to the Sound. Reports show that effluent from different wastewater treatment displays regional differences in the chemicals present. This could be due to varied drug usage throughout the Sound, but even fish in the Nisqually Estuary, selected as a pristine control area, were observed to have contaminated flesh. This suggests that wastewater treatments plants throughout the region are likely are not effective at removing all chemicals from wastewater. 

This regional contamination of salmon serves as a reality check that our chemical inputs to the environment have real effects on ecology. The incident was isolated to one year in one region, but the drugs found in the salmon are not regularly tested in water quality sampling. This means similar situations could be developing in other places into the
future, but without testing and sampling, we will not know.

Find more information in the links below:
Thank you to OCEAN Researcher Rae Taylor-Burns

Read OCEAN 41,   Download OCEAN 41

Reflective Action

Article From Provincetown Banner

Article From Provincetown Banner

An example of our spontaneous advocacy, summer bicycle accidents were plaguing Cape Cod. During a coffee break in our office, we determined highly reflective all weather tape could save lives for 50 cents a bicycle, would take two minutes per bicycle and requires no tools. Krystina Smith acted as our advocacy coordinator, all of our workers spent the day in Provincetown taping about 200 bikes.  We use some of the same strategies to solving environmental problems. Instead of addressing the problem itself, we addressed the cause of the problem. 

One of our workers Sara, attaching highly reflective tape.

One of our workers Sara, attaching highly reflective tape.

Advocacy Krystina attaching highly reflective tape to a bike.

Advocacy Krystina attaching highly reflective tape to a bike.


OCEAN 36  shares an intriguing collection of environmental topics: A nation's changeover to longer lasting currency hits a speed bump when bills are rejected by a Vegetarian cafe; A good idea for recycling used water from oil companies to farmers has unintended results; We finally have edible bags and in the UK, which we consider the Canary in the Climate Change coal mine, they once again experience flooding of historic proportions. The success of this e newsletter would not be possible without our readers, who share it with their friends. Thank you, Gordon Peabody, Editor

OCEAN 36 shares an intriguing collection of environmental topics: A nation's
changeover to longer lasting currency hits a speed bump when bills are rejected by a Vegetarian
cafe; A good idea for recycling used water from oil companies to farmers has unintended
results; We finally have edible bags and in the UK, which we consider the Canary in the
Climate Change coal mine, they once again experience flooding of historic proportions. The
success of this e newsletter would not be possible without our readers, who share it with their
friends. Thank you, Gordon Peabody, Editor

Download OCEAN 36


OCEAN 35 shares some intriguing environmental concepts: People in Maine are starting to eat invasive crabs; NYC is experimenting with old toilets to grow oysters; someone developed a thermal powered piston for controlling greenhouse ventilation and why has it taken so long to come up with edible six pack rings? You will also find breaking updates on previous articles: Bees; Hand Sanitizers and Plastic Microbeads. And we also took a closer look at the 1,000 year rainfall event in Louisiana. OCEAN is the environmental education publication of Safe Harbor Environmental Services. This newsletter is intended

for you, our readers and you have our permission to share it wherever you feel it may be useful. Gordon Peabody, Editor of OCEAN 


Walruses on a barrier island


In September of 2013 the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration observed thousands of walruses hauling out on a barrier island off of Alaska.  On September 12th an estimated 1,500 to 4,000 individuals present and by September 27th there were approximately 10,000.  While similar events have been reported, scientists say it is a recent phenomenon. Walruses generally use floating ice in the Chukchi Sea to rest while feeding at sea but due to recent climate change and melting sea ice, it is more difficult for them—and other species, such as polar bears—to find resting areas.

According to Physics Today sea ice has reached its lowest area measurements since it began being measured in 1979-with a 55% decrease (7.5 million square kilometers to 3.4 million square kilometers). While sea ice has previously been very thick, containing multiple years of accumulation, the current sea ice is much thinner, containing just ice from one season.  The more transparent ice is much quicker to melt (Martin).

The effects on the individual walruses is varied and widespread.  They will be exposed to more stress, depleted food levels, more energy will need to be expended to find prey, trampling caused by stampedes of spooked walruses and increased predation (Knowles).  Disease also spreads much faster in populations that are overcrowded. There is evidence that certain mollusks, crabs and fish are moving northward and the shift in the food base is of a negative consequence for bottom feeders such as walrus and seal that prey on these species (Martin).  The walrus is currently listed as a “Threatened” species and the increase of stressors they face may push it over the edge to “Endangered.”

Thank You to OCEAN Researcher Nicole Smith

For more information regarding the 2013 haul out, as well as previous ones visit NOAA at http://alaskafisheries.noaa.gov/newsreleases/2013/walrushaulout093013.htm.

Martin, Jeffries, et al. "The Arctic shifts to a new normal." Physics Today. American Institute of Physics. Web. 21 Jan 2014.

Unusual Mortality Event: California Sea Lions  


This 2013 Pacific sea lion pupping season has been a dramatic one. Rehabilitation centers have been inundated with over a thousand emaciated and dehydrated pups since the beginning of 2013, making it a record year for rescuers. NOAA has declared this an Unusual Mortality Event (UME) and this is the 6th overall UME for California Sea Lions.  According to NOAA, The Working Group on Marine Mammal UMEs lists 7 criteria to qualify something as a UME and an event has to meet one or more of these criteria to qualify as unusual:

  1. Marked increase in the magnitude or change in the nature of morbidity, mortality or strandings when compared to prior records.
  2. A temporal change in morbidity, mortality or strandings is occurring.
  3. A special change in morbidity, mortality or strandings is occurring.
  4. The species, age or sex composition of the affected animals is different than that of animals usually affected.
  5. Affected animals exhibit similar or unusual pathologic findings, behavior patterns, clinical signs, or general physical condition (e.g., blubber thickness).
  6. Potentially significant morbidity, mortality or stranding is observed in species, stocks or populations that are particularly vulnerable (e.g., listed as depleted, threatened or endangered or declining). For example, stranding of three or four right whales may be cause for great concern whereas stranding of a similar number of fin whales may not.
  7. Morbidity is observed concurrent with or as part of an unexplained continual decline of a marine mammal population, stock, or species.

This event most closely matches with item 1. above, however it likely qualifies under other criteria as well.

While the cause is currently undetermined, there are a few theories as to what is causing this mortality. The most publicized hypothesis is that due to less prey availability for these pinnipeds that the mothers are travelling further and for longer in search of food, making pups more likely to wander in search of their own sustenance. This is not only alarming for the health of the sea lion population but for the fisheries as well. Where did these fish go? What happened to cause such a drastic drop in population size? Answers to these questions are currently being sought out by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), and two other organizations have already gained preliminary results to the driving force behind this mystery.

Researchers from Australian Antarctic Division and Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute (WHOI) provide some insight to this conundrum whilst studying climate change in Antarctica. With global temperatures rising, there have been substantial changes to phytoplankton abundance, which is an integral source of food to fish and krill. They suggest that the trophic level have been and will be affected soonest, causing a chain reaction up the food chain from microorganisms to large cetaceans. This would be in agreement with what is being witnessed in California with less fish present for the sea lion population.

Thank You to OCEAN Researcher Nicole Smith


For more information on California Sea Lions and other UMEs visit this link:


"2013 California Sea Lion Unusual Mortality Event in California." NOAA Fisheries. NOAA, 30 May 2013. Web. 4 Oct 2013. http://www.nmfs.noaa.gov/pr/health/mmume/californiasealions2013.htm

Barlass, Tim. “Polar melt shakes up food chain.” The Sydney Morning Herald 7 April 2013. Web. 7 April 2013. http://www.smh.com.au/environment/climate-change/polar-melt-shakes-up-food-chain-20130406-2hdlx.html

Hillard, Gloria. “Starving Baby Sea Lions Flood Southern California Shores.” Npr.org 9 April 2013. Web. 9 April 2013. http://www.npr.org/2013/04/09/176586940/starving-baby-sea-lions-flood-southern-california-shores?ft=1&f=1001&sc=tw&utm_source=twitterfeed&utm_medium=twitter


Green Roofs

Green Roofs may have been in use for thousands of years in Scandanavian countries. Birch bark waterproofing was used over a wooden roof and sod was placed on top of it to hold the birch bark in place. The natural oils in the bark maintained the water proofing.

Today's Green roofs used existing models as an end goal but needed to incorporate more flexible technology to accommodate changing architecture and materials.

Ground Water and Hydrophilic Chemicals




Ground Water and Hydrophilic Chemicals

Outer Cape Water Quality Initiative: How do grass and natural lawns affect water quality?

Pesticides seem an easy target, but they really direct us to a much larger picture.

Grass lawns don't need to be stigmatized as wrong or bad but perhaps a new balance can be considered between grass lawns and natural (indigenous vegetation) lawns. The Outer Cape's thin soil conditions are brutal, acid and nutrient poor. The natural indigenous vegetation, like the residents, seem to thrive on the weather abuse.

Grass lawns are usually seeded on top of six to eight inches of loam or topsoil. Fertilizers are added to stimulate growth and all sorts of seeds will be successful there. The leaves will be enriched, sending out chemical calling cards to insects. To reduce unwanted "weeds" herbicides may be used. To discourage insects, pesticides may be used. Frequent watering, additional fertilizers and continued use of pesticides and weed killer may be needed. Indigenous animals will find no familiar food or habitat there.

Natural (Indigenous) lawns can be seeded with conservation mix over an inch or two of indigenous compost (obtained free from local transfer stations). We usually rake the compost in a little, seed and then add a once inch layer of mulch (also free from transfer stations) to mimic natural soil profiles.

When transfer stations chip brush, branches and leaves, bacteria and microorganisms begin the decomposition process. The new material can be used as mulch and the dark final product can be used as compost. The benefit of using natural decomposition products is that they already have indigenous pH and nutrient content and host a full range of decomposers that keep on working. Keep the small chips and roots in the natural mix to protect natural diversity in the insect/decomposer community. This mix also welcomes indigenous volunteer seeds and will evolve naturally.

The benefits of natural systems include: creation of habitat for indigenous animals; natural erosion control (all grass creates runoff); naturally filters out sediment and excess nutrients with root/leaf stem systems; never needs mowing; never needs watering (except for the first growing season; never needs fertilizer; never needs pesticides; never needs herbicides. The benefits of natural lawn systems for our drinking water quality include: water conservation; pesticide free, herbicide free and fertilizer free. 


Ground Water and Hydrophilic Chemicals


If you have an interest in more detailed educational information and links regarding this topic, we have just published the booklet "Ground Water and Hydrophilic Chemicals". 

Download: Ground Water and Hydrophilic Chemicals

Safe Harbor Environmental Advocacy Initiative

This water quality initiative advocates the protection of drinking water resources on the Outer Cape. We support educational programs that develop awareness of our aquifer, which is recharged through ground water infiltration. We also encourage collaborative local partnerships, between town boards and stakeholder groups and between Outer Cape communities, to investigate the social changes needed to reduce chemical infiltration and improve our ground water recharge systems. The following discussion points outline the basic goals of the initiative. 1. Drinking water sourced from areas where household waste is infiltrated should be identified as an areas for improvement, through education. 2. Drinking water sourced from areas where lawn and garden chemicals are infiltrated should be identified as areas for improvement, through education. 3. Reducing infiltration of known carcinogens. 4. Reducing infiltration of non-degradable pesticides. 5. Reducing infiltration of biocide cleaners. 6. Reducing infiltration of growth hormones. 7. Reducing infiltration of antibiotics. 8. Reducing infiltration of petrochemicals. 9. Reducing infiltration of nitrogen and phosphorus. 10. Developing reliable, full spectrum monitoring programs. 11. Developing alternative choices for household chemical products. 12. Developing retailer support for chemical product alternatives. 13. Reducing storm water runoff with effective ground water infiltration systems.

We encourage leaders in Outer Cape Towns to discuss and support these basic goals. Discussions should include concerned residents and the capable contributors found on Planning Boards, Boards of Health and Conservation Commissions. Protecting our drinking water resources from chemical infiltration is a common goal that can unite local groups and create regional partnerships.

We support regional environmental initiatives. These initiatives work to conserve financial resources as well as natural resources. Local and regional partnerships contribute to successful initiatives by more effectively participating in stakeholder interaction and education.

Safe Harbor, 2007 For more information contact Gordon Peabody at 508-237-3724, or gordonsafeharbor@yahoo.com