What is compromising the health of the oceans, and how can we make sustainable wastewater treatment more accessible?
Among the biggest threats to the health of the world’s oceans are overfishing and pollution. But although much work has been done to better manage marine resources and reduce the impact of plastics and microplastics on the marine environment, one major source of pollution has been largely overlooked: untreated or inadequately treated wastewater.
How big a threat is sewage?
Over 80% of the sewage generated globally enters the ocean without being adequately treated, making it one of the largest contributors to marine pollution.
By calculating the amounts of fecal pathogens and nitrogen discharged into the oceans through human sewage, a 2021 study found that human sewage entering the oceans contains about 40% as much nitrogen as contained in pollution from global agricultural runoffs. Nitrogen is a plant nutrient that can help produce harmful algal blooms and cause so-called dead zones: hypoxic or oxygen-deprived regions of the ocean that are unable to support life. Human sewage thus contributes significantly to nutrient pollution in the oceans. The study found that “58% of coral and 88% of seagrass beds are exposed to wastewater N [nitrogen] input.” Both coral and seagrass beds support a rich biodiversity and play an important role in mitigating climate change by storing carbon.
According to the researchers, although about half of the nitrogen pollution from human sewage came from just 25 of the 135,000 locations that they sampled, untreated sewage pollution occurs on every continent and flows from both rich and poor countries, posing a risk to affected coastal areas.
Sustainable Wastewater Treatment Solutions Improve Ocean Health
To address the problem of nutrient pollution of the oceans, we must address a major cause of the problem: sewage pollution. This means better management of sewage and greater awareness of the requirements of clean water and sanitation.
Sewage has traditionally been treated in a septic system or wastewater treatment plant. Septic systems are less expensive and good for removal of nitrogen, but they are less effective at removing pathogens. Wastewater treatment plants are more effective at removing pathogens, but can be costly to install, especially in remote locations with little supporting infrastructure.
Such obstacles can be overcome, however. With Seven Seas Water Group’s Water-as-a-Service® approach, municipalities, developers, and businesses can get the wastewater treatment services they need without any capital outlay; they simply pay for the services they use. Seven Seas also offers a flexible Lease Plant Program, further increasing access to wastewater treatment. Clients can choose either a short-term lease or long-term lease, with an option to purchase. Seven Seas offers a range of wastewater-treatment technologies, including treatments that remove pathogens and nitrogen from wastewater.
Contact Seven Seas to learn more about our Water-as-a-Service® partnerships or leasing options, and how our wastewater treatment solutions contribute to cleaner waterways and healthier oceans.
Learn more about World Ocean Day, celebrated annually on June 8th.
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