Pollution prevention in the coastal zone: An exploratory essay with case studies

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In the past decade, national and international pollution policies have increasingly opted for prevention over remediation. As an anticipatory, comprehensive approach that might save money and avoid end-of-pipe regulations, pollution prevention (P2) warrants careful consideration. We focus on the coastal zone because of its unique geographical characteristics, its ecological and economic importance, and the increasing pressures on its integrity. Over the past 25 years, U.S. legislation has increasingly embraced P2 principles in the management of coastal environments. Four case studies illustrate P2 's prospects for the variety of pollution problems within the coastal zone: Boston Harbor (wastewater); Chesapeake Bay (nutrients); Broward County, Florida's P2 program for marinas (toxic substances); and the cruise line industry (solid waste). These case studies represent a range of circum stances in the coastal zone: a number of pollutants; point and nonpoint sources; land-based and ocean-based sources; mandatory versus voluntary P2 approaches; localized and regional approaches; small-scale versus large-scale responses; and pollutant-generating activities that range from agriculture and wastewater treatment to maritime transportation. These examples illustrate that P2 potentially enjoys wide applicability in coastal pollution management. If environmental policy continues its long-term trend toward an anticipatory, voluntary, and cross-media emphasis, P2will increasingly influence coastal management. However, anticipatory and comprehensive are not always better, and sources do not always volunteer to reduce. Significant obstacles to adoption of P2 may be economic, political, or social. Economic challenges include weak incentives to adopt clean technologies and the absence of a systematic accounting that considers the positive values of enhanced environmental amenities. Political obstacles arise through lack of grassroots acceptance of P2, weak political will, and enforcement difficulties. Nor are all P2 solutions socially acceptable. Despite these obstacles, P2 offers a comprehensive, integrated, holistic approach to pollution management that fits well with models of effective integrated coastal management.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)157-175
Number of pages19
JournalCoastal Management
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jan 1 1998


  • Cruise industry
  • Marinas
  • Nutrient enrichment
  • Pollution prevention
  • Sewage sludge
  • Source reduction
  • Toxic substances

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Environmental Chemistry
  • Environmental Science(all)


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