Quantification of the contribution of wastewater effluent to coastal ocean acidification

PI: Scott Doney, WHOI, Jennie Rheuban, WHOI, James Churchill, WHOI, Geoffrey Cowles, Univ. of Massachusetts - Dartmouth

Project Number:2016-R/RC-143

Start Date:2016-02-01End Date:2018-08-31

Proposal Summary

This project seeks to understand the effect of effluent from wastewater treatment plants, specifically those in Fairhaven, New Bedford, and Wareham, on the acidification of coastal waters in Buzzards Bay. Mathematical modeling of the effluent plumes using tracers will be combined with field sampling of carbonate chemistry and nutrients in the plumes -- namely, dissolved inorganic carbon and total alkalinity using titration methods; pH using spectrophotometric methods; nutrients including NO3-+NO2-, NH4+, PO4-3, SiO4-, TN, PON, and POC; and organic matter enrichment of sediments. Modeling efforts will use and refine the Southeastern Massachusetts hydrodynamic model (SEMASS-FVCOM). Coastal acidification destroys economically important habitats that support aquaculture and commercial fisheries, and little is known about the contribution of outflow from towns’ wastewater treatment plants. If this study shows that wastewater treatment plants are strong point sources of dissolved inorganic carbon, FVCOM’s high-resolution hydrodynamic/plume tracking model can help design mitigation strategies such as sewer expansions, changes to levels of wastewater treatment, and re-siting of effluent outfall pipes


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