Address wastewater pollution issues in Hawaii (and other parts of the world) to build coral reef resilience in the face of climate change
Posted by Anne Rillero | , United States
Coastal pollution from sewage in a developed country? Sadly, that's a reality in Hawaii, where 88,000 cesspools and more than 500 injection wells for the disposal of sewage wastewater have been constructed and operated during the past two decades. These substandard wastewater management approaches cause excess nitrogen and other pollutants to be carried via groundwater into coastal ocean waters. The nitrogen contributes to excessive algal growth which blocks sunlight from coral reefs and weakens their ability to survive warming ocean waters. Chemicals from medications in wastewater also impact corals' ability to survive. Up to 50% of Hawaii's reefs have died in some locations in recent years. While it is critical that climate change be addressed on a global scale, it is also imperative that locally based innovations to address inadequate wastewater treatment are concurrently developed -- as a way to improve coral reef resilience in the face of warming ocean temperatures. The overall goal is to develop and implement solutions to reduce wastewater pollution in Hawaii as well as in other locations worldwide.