In the beginning, the problem was very clear- water pollution was visible to everyone in the nation. In 1969 we saw the Cuyahoga River in Ohio burst into flames. Historic Boston Harbor was a cesspool, and so was the Potomac River in Washington, D.C. Lake Erie was declared dead and the 1969 oil spill off scene in Santa Barbara, California, contributed to the public outrage and the call for immediate reforms. Water pollution is the introduction into fresh or ocean waters of chemical, physical, or biological material that degrades the quality of the water and affects the organisms living in it. Water provides for use in homes and industries, for irrigation, for extinguishing fires, for street cleaning, for carrying wastes to treatment facilities, and for many other purposes.
The three most important factors in any water supply are its quality, the quantities available, and the location of the water supply relative to the points of use. Each type of water use has its own prerequisites. Food processing plants, for example, need large volumes and high water quality; waste conveyance systems require only volume. When the Clean Water Act first became a law in 1972, it focused on the most visible an repugnant water pollution sources - sewage outfalls, industrial waste discharges, and other "point sources", so named because the pollution that comes from them can be traced to one place and then easily controlled. But the drafters of the original Clean Water Act largely overlooked non-point sources of water pollution. Major sources of non-point pollution include runoff from streets and lawns, erosion from disturbed hillsides, and use of agricultural pesticides, fertilizers, and manure.
Because of their scattered sources, these types of pollution can be difficult to control, but their effects can be seen in bodies of water across the continent. The risks and hazards of pollution have become very clear across the nation as the problem has progressed. "The oceans are the planet's last great living wilderness, man's only remaining frontier on earth, and perhaps his last chance to produce himself a rational species". John L. Cull ney (web (#9) ). Nowhere have the problems been more studied or reported than in the Great Lakes. Fish contamination in Lake Ontario, for instance, stems from many of the most notorious contaminants: PCBs, mercury and pesticides like DDT, the by-products of industry and agriculture.
The EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) lists 70 "Organic Priority Pollutants and Pesticides" and 18 "Priority Pollutant Metals" of concern to the fishing public. The roll call includes other noxious compounds like dioxin, chlordane, dieldrin, toxaphene, arsenic and selenium. "The crisis of our diminishing water resources is just as severe (if less obviously immediate) as any wartime crisis we have ever faced. Our survival is just as much at stake as it was in the time of Pear Harbor, or the Argonne, or Gettysburg, or Sara tog.) " Jim Wright, U.S. Representative. (web (#9) ). Fisherman and their families who eat mercury-tainted fish are susceptible to nervous disorders and kidney dysfunction. Pesticides are strongly suspected of causing cancer and genetic disorders in children.
The only confirmed effects of dioxin in humans are skin disorders, but in a variety of lab animals it is lethal. PCBs cause liver disease and nervous-system disorders and are also suspected of causing reproductive and developmental problems. Pregnant women who eat fish contaminated with PCBs show increased anemia and are predisposed to disease, and their children - exposed to PCBs in the womb or through breastfeeding- are prone to developmental disorders. "Children of a culture born in a water-rich environment, we have never really learned how important water is to us. We understand it, but we don not respect it".
William Ashworth (web (#9) ). These facts alone should be enough to convince industries to do every possible thing that they can to prevent the pollution of our water supply. The major argument when it comes to sewage outfalls and other major pollutants, is that there is simply no where to put it. In response to that the EPA says "It is necessary for the safety of our water that industries upgrade their facilities and filtration methods to meet a higher standard that would result in a decrease in pollution by these major sources". (EPA spokesperson) Industries say that it is just to expensive and inefficient even though they claim that they are concerned about the environment. Pollution-treatment systems have been effective in reducing the massive quantities of water pollutants that have clogged and choked urban areas.
Although improvements have been significant, recent pollution-control legislation aims to go further in order to control the less visible but often hazardous chemical pollutants that still contaminate many waterways and urban atmospheres. The costs of pollution control-resulting from capital, maintenance, and labor costs, as well as from the cost of additional residuals disposal-generally go up rapidly as a greater percentage of residuals is removed from the waste stream. Damage from pollution, on the other hand, goes down as a greater amount of contaminants is removed. Theoretically, the level of treatment should correspond to a point at which total costs of treatment and of damage to the environment are minimized or the benefits of further treatment are much smaller than the increased cost. In reality, costs or damages resulting from pollution can rarely be assessed in terms of dollars.
Federal air- and water-pollution-control laws of the late 1960's and the 1970's established standards and goals to be met by certain deadlines. Amendments to the Clean Air Act and the Water Pollution Control Act postponed these deadlines in 1977, however, and further changes were proposed in the 1980's. Primary wastewater treatment involves such physical techniques as screening large debris, skimming off floating materials, and settling out suspended material in tanks. These techniques remove about 60% of suspended solids and 35% of biodegradable organic material in municipal sewage as well as in comparable industrial wastewater. Secondary treatment biologically breaks down organic matter remaining from the primary treatment by using microorganisms to decompose the wastes. This method increases the total removal of suspended solids and biodegradable organic to 90%.
As a final step, municipal sewage is chlorinated to kill any pathogenic microorganisms. Advanced treatment of waste involving biological, chemical, and physical methods of disposal is used either to remove plant nutrients that promote excessive growth of algae in water or to remove industrial pollutants, such as heavy metals and non biodegradable organic chemicals. The advanced treatment system at South Lake Tahoe, for instance, produces an effluent that meets drinking-water standards. The system enhances primary- and secondary-treatment coagulation and settling of solid wastes containing phosphorus; it removes nitrogen by means of gas stripping; and it has an activated-carbon absorption and filtration stage. Although effective, advanced systems are much more costly than secondary treatment systems. The Water Pollution Control Act of 1972, as amended in 1977, set a national goal of waters fit for swimming and fishing by 1983 and of no pollutant discharge into these waters by 1985.
The act charged the EPA with implementing a program of increasingly stringent effluent standards. The Marine Protection, Research, and Sanctuaries Act (1972) empowered the EPA to control the dumping of sewage wastes and toxic chemicals in the oceans. In 1987 the United States ratified an amendment prohibiting ocean dumping of plastic materials to the Marine Pollution Treaty of 1973 (Mar pol). The states of New York and New Jersey agreed in 1988 to halt the dumping of sludge-the settled material from wastewater treatment-in the Atlantic Ocean by the end of 1991 after sewage, medical waste, and other materials washed ashore and forced the closing of some area beaches. Ted Danson founded the American Oceans Campaign, an organization aimed at protecting our Earth's oceans and coastal waters. Danson says, "Our oceans feed the world, cool our planet, regulate climate, and create nearly 1/2 of the global oxygen supply.
Yet each day, billions of gallons of sewage, pesticides, and industrial chemicals flow into the sea. We must take drastic measures to prevent the incline of this global situation". Danson says. (Science World (#8) ) There are many steps that our society can take in order to ensure the safety of our planet.
All we have to do is care..