A Solution for Acidic Streams

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The Downeast Salmon Federation (DSF) is collaborating with Project SHARE, University of Maine, DEP, DMR and the seafood industry to use clam shells as a tool to restore biological productivity in our coastal watersheds. Although the rivers of Downeast Maine appear aesthetically pristine and unpolluted from algal blooms or runoff, they are often too acidic to support thriving populations of fish and other wildlife. This paradox is largely caused by the acid precipitation of sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxide emissions in power plants, factories and automobiles. While the Clean Air Act has inspired great emission reductions from these sources, the heaths and granitic geology of Downeast Maine have little ability to recover a neutralizing buffer against low pH levels.

Clam shells enhance the buffering capacity by supplying calcium carbonate (alkalinity) to acidified waters. A dose of cleaned (meat –free), whole clam shells scattered at the headwaters of a stream dissolve quickly and filter an alkaline water “solution” throughout the watershed. Best of all, our collaboration with local shucking houses in the seafood industry redeems this byproduct from landfills and recycles them back into the watersheds of our coastal ecosystems! This collaboration and the water chemistry showed immediate benefit from experimental applications on Bowles Stream and Dead Stream in the Old Stream and Machias River watersheds. Starting with a 2013 approval for Harmon Brook in the East Machias River watershed, DSF and its partners are excited to expand this “solution” to new waters throughout our region! For further information or to become involved, please contact DSF at 483-4336 in Columbia Falls or 255-0676 in East Machias.

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