In the dim light of the Norwa lk Maritime Center’s aquarium,
resident marine biologist Skip Crane leans over for an eye-to-eye view of a stoic blackfish.
Skip acknow ledges the problems are serious but ultimately has great fa ith in the resilience of a system washed daily by bi IIions of gallons of c lean sea water.
He sails the Sound each day with students and sees burgeoning life, a healthier fish ing industry and great hope for the future.
The one year-old, $30 million Norwalk Maritime Center shows quite clearly what a healthy Sound should look like.
Visitors start above water with exhibits about the oystering industry, boatbuilding and nav igati onal subjects.
Then, the aq uarium leads visitors into the Sound itself, starting with a salt marsh and tidal pools where dozens of species begin life.
Touch tanks allow children and ad ults to hold a ferociouslooking,
People: The Problem but utterly harmless horseshoe crab, an ee l, sea robin or starfish.
Ironicall y, a quick glance at a nautical chart shows a sewage outlet opposite the Center, illuminating the Damocles’ sword hanging over the Sound ‘s future.
According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, spills
and inefficienci es from the 86 sewage plants around the Sound re lease over one billion gallons of inadeq uately treated sewage into the Sound each day-all in all,
a total of 376 billion gallons annually or enough to fill 6.3 million Olympic-size pools.
Sewage and chemi cals are just two of the crucial factors in a deadly phenomenon cal led hypox ia.
Hypox ia takes place when dissolved oxygen levels in water drop to 3 milligrams per liter or less.
Winter storms pound the Sound, cleaning and oxygenating it. In summer, the heat and stillness of the Sound restrict the natural flow between deep and surface waters.
High nutrient levels from sewage, ferti I izers or storms (which wash nutrients down rivers or out of marshes) foster an intense bloom of a red-brown algae called photoplankton.
The algae bloom sucks up oxygen as it lives, and each bloom uses even more as it dies and decomposes.
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