The contamination of our rivers, ponds, lakes and seas is brought about by many different means. Our modern day lifestyles attack the natural, water eco-system from all directions.
One of the most highly reported causes of water pollution is probably the washing of waste chemicals from industry straight into rivers and reservoirs. For years industrial units released all sorts of acids, toxins, heavy metals, dyes, pesticides and even radioactive waste. But it didn’t stop there, Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs) such as polychlorinated biphenyl (PCB) compounds, lubricants and hot water were also discharged by power plants causing further pollution. The increase in temperature of the waterways is a problem to the marine life which simply cannot survive.
Fortunately certain regulations are now in place to counteract the production and release of a number of chemicals and particularly the POPs. But too little too late? POPs have been found in places where they’ve never been produced. They travel long-distances without any sign of wear. This type of pollutants never decompose, they cluster and accumulate up the food chain. Their quantities increase at each step in the food chain so that humans are hit with maximum impact.
Due to limited infrastructure and funds, developing countries often still don’t treat their waste water. Those factories in China that pollute the rivers are producing the cheap products bought by consumers in the US and Europe, so there are some ethical issues raised. Who’s responsible for this damage? Or who has the more power to do something about it?
But even without the active disposal of waste from industry, there remain other risks. Oil spills. Oil spills exist in many forms, including from shipping drains, dumping and Underground Storage Tank (UST) leaks. The metal tanks with 10% of their body underwater are hard to maintain and corrode overtime, causing oil to leak into the sea. In a spill the thick sludge of oil floats on top of the water blocking sunlight, an essential element for the aquatic plants to photosynthesize and hindering the circulation of oxygen to the marine animals. Sea birds often fall victim as they pick up the sticky mass in their feathers, impeding their ability to fly.
Moving on to even bigger rubbish, marine dumping is an activity strongly associated with the image of dolphin beaks trapped by the packaging of six pack beers, seemingly insignificant rubbish which caused major problems to the big fish, and mammals. If you think newspapers take about six weeks to degrade and plastics take a (human) lifetime (and more), a single bag can suffocate many. Much of these products are non-biodegradable. They often wash up on beaches creating eyesores.
Our global activities are causing the demise of the water system 24 hours a day 7 days a week. All human activity that causes global warming leads to water pollution. The water cycle takes water vapor from the air with added air pollutants and turns it into water droplets for the oceans. So this process called acid rain feeds the pollution back into the water basin. The pollutants are created and released into the atmosphere when we burn fossil fuels for energy, transportation and manufacturing.
As the greenhouse effect is a (normally positive) natural phenomenon exasperated and overburdened by humans, so there exists a natural process called eutrophication. Eutrophication is the natural build-up of nutrients in water which leads to the development of more productive and mature ecosystems. But human intervention with mother nature means that, as an example, chemical fertilizers used in intensive agriculture are running off the land and into the waterways. Water-based vegetation is nourished and thrives, only too fast, clogging up the ecosystem. Eutrophication often causes algal blooms (rapid increase in population of algae) which starve the waters and marine life of oxygen and hence also life, the negative effects of eutrophication are magnified in still bodies of water such as lakes and ponds.
The environmental pollutants once released follow particular ‘pollution pathways’. They become concentrated in specific parts of the ecosystem, ‘pollution sinks’, in for example groundwater stores. Particularly when the weather is dry and hot water evaporates and leaves the harmful chemicals behind focused in one area. To repay our debt to the environment we could make a concentrated effort to reduce and eradicate water pollution and unplug these pollution sinks? -E.MESKHI