An alarming report released by Congress in 1988 warned that the country’s coastal resources are in critical danger and that we have so overloaded our coastal areas with pollution that we are on the verge of killing them.
The report, “Coastal Waters in Jeopardy,” was compiled by the House Committee on Merchant Marine and Fisheries after nine oversight hearings on the issue. It also outlined a plan of action to halt the destruction of estuaries, near-coastal waters, and the beaches. Noting the presence of medical wastes that closed east coast beaches last year, the report charged that “the prevalence of contaminants in our coastal waters is rendering the unacceptable commonplace.” Also noted was the fact that the population density of coastal counties is five times that of non-coastal counties nationwide, ten times greater on the east coast. About 80% of the wastewater generated by the 2200 municipal sewage plants in the 325 coastal counties ends up in estuaries or their tributaries.
The report outlined the following ten-point plant of action to halt the destruction of estuaries, near-coastal waters and beaches:
Presidential Executive Order requiring a review of the activities of any federal departments that may affect coastal pollution or coastal resources;
* High budgetary priority for coastal protection, including “user fees” for those who dispose of their wastes in the ocean;
* Strengthening EPA and NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) agency commitments to the coast, especially in the area of issuing waste discharge permits;
* Stepped-up Coastal Zone Management and Land Use programs to identify coastal watershed protective zones and to focus on appropriate land use in those areas;
* Clarification and strengthening of the Clean Water Act;
* Pretreatment of wastewater, a responsibility the EPA is accused of shunning;
* Compliance and enforcement on federal, state, and local levels, including high penalties for polluters and stepped-up monitoring and prosecution;
* Stricter policies and rules regarding wetlands.
Though the report acknowledges that these efforts will take time, its message is clear: coastal pollution is now a major national problem, one which must be recognized on federal, state, and local levels if we want our coasts to survive.
BOREGA BAY NAVIGATOR, February 1988, “Congress releases alarming coast report, seeks executive action,” pp 4, 12-13.