Heavy Metal Pollution: Not So Natural Rainbows

High Tech High Blog Series: Blog 5 of 7
 heavy-metals oil rainbow pollutant toxin street
While driving down the road on a rainy day have you ever noticed the rainbow that flows into the storm drains? Many times you will see cigarette butts, trash and other miscellaneous objects flowing down the road to the storm drains, which lead to the ocean. Many people who drive every day or who have a boat that they actively use, are unaware that there are metals on these vehicles that accumulate in the environment. 
Metals such as aluminum, copper, cadmium, zinc, accumulate on the roads, and are washed through storm drains into the ocean during each rain. We call these heavy metals. 
Metals in boat paint deteriorate and leach into the water, contaminating surrounding waters. The paint used on the hull of the boat contains copper in order to specifically kill off marine organisms. These metals can bring a great amount of toxicity to the ecosystem that they run into. 
In a survey designed by a junior class from High Tech High, over 60 percent of participants thought that they did not or were not aware that they contribute to heavy metal pollution simply by driving or using their boat. 
shipyard heavy-metal pollution toxic ocean 
While the everyday actions of humans are a large source of pollution, waterfront industries where boats are used can be major contributors to pollution. In 2012, the San Diego Bay Shipyards cleanup began as an attempt to tidy up the ocean area in the shipyards due to the amount of pollution that is in the water. Toxic heavy metals have accumulated at the floor of the bay, which can cause mutations and poison the fish that live there. The parties responsible for this are given five years total to cleanup the area. This was a huge step to cleaning up the bay, but more must be done in order to keep our local waters clean. One thing we can do as individuals is to drive less and make sure we properly dispose of all waste in order to help prevent ocean pollution.  
To research and help prevent further pollution, a class of 50+ students from High Tech High school in Point Loma, California teamed up with San Diego Coastkeeper® to conduct the “Oceans Away Project,” a project designed to help inform the public of the consequences of their daily actions.