Next Day Delivery: PCBs, Plastics, and Mercury All in One Package

By Alastair Bland

The slow, downstream chemical migration of legacy contaminants like mercury and PCBs into the Bay is something that Lester McKee and his colleagues at the San Francisco Estuary Institute hope to cut short. Using funding from the Regional Monitoring Program, they’ve been sampling creeks that enter the central and southern San Francisco Bay for years, identifying the most contaminated waterways. “We want to short-circuit the conveyor belt that delivers the pollutants we’re concerned about into the food web,” says McKee.  Today we are producing a new but similar legacy in the form of what scientists classify as “contaminants of emerging concern,” such as microplastics. “The sooner we can stop the inputs of these contaminants,” says SFEI’s Alicia Gilbreath, “the sooner the Bay can have a chance to recover.”

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About the author

A native to San Francisco, Alastair Bland is a freelance journalist who writes about water policy in California, rivers and salmon, marine conservation and climate change. His work has appeared at NPR.org, Smithsonian.com, Yale Environment 360 and News Deeply, among many other outlets. When he isn't writing, Alastair is likely riding his bicycle uphill as fast as he can.