I. Introduction According to the Columbia Encyclopedia, water pollution is defined as contamination of water resources by harmful wastes. In most cases this contamination is a result of people overloading the water environment with wastes. The scope of this problem covers any and all water sources including but not limited to streams, lakes, underground water, bays or oceans. II. Statement of Problem It is no misconception that water is a necessary compound to all life on Earth. Absolutely all organisms need water in one form or another.
Plants and animals including humans require water that is reasonably pure, and they cannot survive if their water is encumbered with toxic chemicals or harmful microorganisms. If severe, water pollution is capable of harming and even killing fish, birds, and other animals, in some cases wiping out the entire population of a species in that affected area. Pollution makes streams, lakes, and coastal waters unpleasant to look at, to smell, and to swim in. The fish and shellfish that live in these polluted waters are no longer suitable for consumption, so the harvesting of such could have impairing effects to the general population.
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Even though illness might or might not appear initially, the long term consumption of these fish can lead to the development of cancers and in some cases severe birth defects are passed on to offspring. III. Presentation of Data and Information Water pollutants are classified into two groups; point source pollutants and non point source pollutants. A point source pollutant is a harmful substance that enters the water source directly such as an oil spill. A non point source pollutant is a pollutant that enters the water source indirectly through environmental changes such as fertilizer run off washed in by rainwater.
Almost all pollutants can be described as either chemical, biological, or physical materials that have adverse effects to water quality. These pollutants can be furthered broken down into eight different classes: Petroleum products which consist of oil based chemicals that are used in manufacturing and by the general population for fuel, lubrication, plastics manufacturing, or other purposes. Petroleum products can get into water sources through different mediums but the most common are accidental spills from ships, tanker trucks, and leaky underground storage tanks.
Almost all petroleum products are poisonous if ingested by animals and the oil itself is extremely harmful to the coats of birds, animal, and fish. Pesticides and Herbicides; chemicals used to eradicate unwanted animals and plants may be washed into streams by rainwater. Some of the chemicals in these products are non biodegradable and as a result they can pose a threat to the environment even after several years. When an animal eats a plant that’s been treated with certain non degradable chemicals, the chemicals are absorbed into the tissues or the organs of the animals.
When other animals feed on a contaminated animal, the chemicals are passed up to them. As it goes up through the food chain, the concentration of the chemical reaches harmful levels, so animals at the top of the food chains may suffer cancers, reproductive problems, and in some cases even result in death. Approximately 14 million Americans drink water contaminated by pesticides and the EPA estimates that at least ten percent of wells contain pesticides. Nitrates can cause a lethal form of anemia called blue baby syndrome in infants.
Heavy metals, such as copper, lead, mercury, and selenium, get into the water from industrial factories, automobile exhaust, mines, and natural soil. Similar to non biodegradable pesticides and herbicides, the heavy metal concentration can also reach toxic levels as one moves up the food chain. When the metals attain these toxic levels in the body, they can be immediately poisonous, or can result in long term health problems. A common side effect is diarrhea and, over time, liver and kidney damage. Another common consequence is mental retardation in children which can come as a result of lead exposure.
Hazardous wastes which consists of chemical wastes that are toxic, reactive, corrosive, or ignitable. If not treated or stored properly, they can pollute water supplies. Similar to herbicides and pesticides these wastes can reach toxic levels as we climb up the food chain. Excess organic matter from fertilizers and other nutrients used to promote plant growth on farms or even your own garden. At first the nutrients will help the plants and algae in the water grow, but when they die and settle underwater, microorganisms decompose them, while decomposing them the microorganisms take in oxygen that is dissolved in the water.
The oxygen levels in the water may drop so low that fish and other oxygen dependent animals in the water suffocate, and die. Sediment particles carried to a stream bed, lake, or ocean, if in large amounts, can also be a pollutant. Soil erosion can damage a stream or lake by adding too much nutrient matter. Sedimentation can also cover stream bed gravel where many fish lay their eggs. Many disease causing organisms that are present in small numbers in most natural waters are considered pollutants when found in drinking water.
These parasites can cause illness, especially in people who are very young or very old, and in people who are already suffering from other diseases. Finally there is thermal Pollution; water is often taken from rivers, lakes, or the ocean to be used in factories and power plants. The water is usually returned to the source warmer than when it was taken. Even a small temperature change in a body of water can drive away the fish and other species that were originally there, and attract other species in place of them.
Thermal pollution can speed up the biological processes in plants and animals or lower the oxygen level in the water. Fish and other wildlife near the discharge source, may die. IV. Conclusions In general the main contributors to water pollution are: Municipal, Agricultural, and Industrial. In the past water pollution could be said to be the result of lack of space in landfills and an overall lack of environmental education in the general population and business sector. Instead of recycling or safer methods of waste disposal, people and businesses would simply dump their waste in water sources.
That slowed in 1956 when the Federal Water Pollution Control Act was created and it slowed almost to a halt in 1977 when the Clean Water Act was created. However even after two major acts, companies and individuals still sporadically break the law and use illegal disposal methods. V. Summary One would thing that the regulation of water, one of the purest compounds known to man would be a fairly easy task, but in reality it is an intimidating challenge that requires a plethora of regulators.
Water pollution regulation consists of a labyrinth of state and federal statutes, administrative rules and common law principles. As a result of the numerous industries and methods in which water pollution can result, laws continue to be enforced and new ones are put in place to combat the problem and protect out natural water resources. In conclusion the following statement by former President Bill Clinton, entails what our country strives for “Every child deserves to grow up with water that is pure to drink, lakes that are safe for swimming, rivers that are teeming with fish.
We have to act now to combat these pollution challenges with new protections to give all our children the gift of clean, safe water in the 21st century. ” References Ciaccio, L. L. (1971). Water and water pollution handbook. New York: M. Dekker. Columbia Encyclopedia (2nd ed. , Vols. 1-45). (2000). Chicago: Columbia Press. McCaull, J. , & Crossland, J. (1974). Water pollution. Environmental issues series. New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich. Morris, R. D. (2007).
The blue death: disease, disaster and the water we drink. New York, NY: HarperCollins. NATO Advanced Workshop on Management of Intentional and Accidental Water Pollution, Dura, G. , Kambourova, V. , & Kaloi? a? nova-Simeonova, F. (2006). Management of intentional and accidental water pollution. NATO security through science series, v. 11. Dordrecht, The Netherlands: Springer. Ostopowich, M. (2006). Water pollution. Science matters. New York: Weigl. Warren, C. E. , & Doudoroff, P. (1971). Biology and water pollution control. Philadelphia: Saunders.