Risks of hypoxia and acidification in the high energy coastal environment near Victoria, Canada’s untreated municipal sewage outfalls

Highlights

•Declining oxygen in water upwelled offshore could put Victoria at risk of hypoxia.
•Effluent is rapidly diluted by currents, and cold temperatures slow respiration.
•Higher levels of treatment are unlikely to significantly increase dissolved oxygen.
•Impact on dissolved oxygen is less than a few μmol kg-1; conditions are not hypoxic.
•Effluent does not increase dissolved carbon dioxide causing acidification.

Abstract

Wastewater disposal often has deleterious impacts on the receiving environment. Low dissolved oxygen levels are particularly concerning. Here, we investigate the impacts on dissolved oxygen and carbon chemistry of screened municipal wastewater in the marine waters off Victoria, Canada. We analyzed data from undersea moorings, ship-based monitoring, and remotely-operated vehicle video. We used these observations to construct a two-layer model of the nearfield receiving environment. Despite the lack of advanced treatment, dissolved oxygen levels near the outfalls were well above a 62 μmol kg−1 hypoxic threshold. Furthermore, the impact on water column oxygen at the outfall is likely <2 μmol kg−1. Dissolved inorganic carbon is not elevated and pH not depressed compared to the surrounding region. Strong tidal currents and cold, well-ventilated waters give Victoria’s marine environment a high assimilative capacity for organic waste. However, declining oxygen levels offshore put water near the outfall at risk of future hypoxia

Krogh J., Lanson D., Hamme R. C. & Lowe C. J., 2018. Risks of hypoxia and acidification in the high energy coastal environment near Victoria, Canada’s untreated municipal sewage outfalls. Marine Pollution Bulletin 133: 517-531. Article.

 

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