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What is water pollution?

Any chemical, biological, or physical change in water quality that has a harmful effect on living organisms or makes water unsuitable for desired usage.

Infectious Agents: bacteria and viruses often from animal wastes Oxygen Demanding Wastes: organic waste that needs oxygen often from animal waste, paper mills and food processing. Inorganic Chemicals: Acids and toxic chemicals often from runoff, industries and household cleaners

Organic Chemicals: oil, gasoline, plastics, detergents often from surface runoff, industries and cleaners Plant Nutrients: water soluble nitrates, ammonia and phosphates often from sewage, agriculture and urban fertilizers Sediment: soils and silts from land erosion can disrupt photosynthesis, destroy spawning grounds, clog rivers and streams Heat Pollution and Radioactivity: mostly from powerplants

How do we measure water quality

Bacterial Counts: Fecal coliform counts from intestines of animals None per 100 ml for drinking >200 per 100 ml for swimming Sources: human sewage, animals, birds, raccoons, etc.

How do we measure water quality

Dissolved Oxygen: BOD Biological Oxygen Demandthe amount of oxygen consumed by aquatic decomposers Chemical Analysis: looking for presence of inorganic or organic chemicals Suspended Sediment water clarity

How do we measure water quality

Indicator Species: organisms that give an idea of the health of the water body. Mussels, oysters and clams filter water

Major Sources of Water Pollution

Agriculture: by far the leader Sediment, fertilizers, bacteria from livestock, food processing, salt from soil irrigation Industrial: factories and powerplants Mining: surface mining toxics, acids, sediment

Pollution of Streams
Oxygen sag curve Factors influencing recovery

Groundwater can become contaminated No way to cleanse itself Little dilution and dispersion Out of sight pollution Prime source for irrigation and drinking REMOVAL of pollutant difficult

Groundwater Pollution: Causes

Low flow rates Low oxygen Few bacteria Cold temperatures
Hazardous waste injection well Pesticides Coal strip mine runoff

De-icing road salt

Pumping well Waste lagoon Gasoline station Water pumping well Landfill

Buried gasoline and solvent tank Cesspool septic tank

Sewer Leakage from faulty casing Discharge Confined aquifer Groundwater flow

Accidental spills

Fig. 22-9 p. 502

Prevention is the most effective and cheapest

Groundwater Pollution Prevention

Monitor aquifers

Find less hazardous substitutes Leak detection systems

Strictly regulating hazardous waste disposal Store hazardous materials above ground

Ocean Pollution
Oceans can disperse and break down large quantities of degradable pollution if they are not overloaded.
Pollution worst near heavily populated coastal zones Wetlands, estuaries, coral reefs, mangrove swamps 40% of worlds pop. Live within 62 miles of coast

Ocean Pollution

Fig. 22-11 p. 504

Preventing and reducing the flow of pollution from land and from streams emptying into the ocean is key to protecting oceans

Technological Approach: Sewage Treatment

Technological Approach: Advanced (Tertiary) Sewage Treatment

Uses physical and chemical processes

Removes nitrate and phosphate


Not widely used

Drinking Water Quality

Purification of urban drinking water Protection from terrorism Purification of rural drinking water Safe Drinking Water Act

Maximum contaminant levels (MCLs)

Bottled water

Purification of urban drinking water

Surface Water: (like Delaware River) Removed to reservoir to improve clarity Pumped to a treatment plant to meet drinking water standards Groundwater: often does not need much treatment

Purification of rural drinking water

There can be simple ways to purify water: Exposing to heat and UV rays Fine cloths to filter water Add small amounts of chlorine

Safe Drinking Water Act

54 countries have drinking water laws
SDWA passed 1974 requires EPA to set drinking water standards

Maximum Contaminating Levels (MCLs)

Safe Drinking Water Act

Privately owned wells exempt from SDWA SDWA requires public notification of failing to meet standards and fine. MCLs often stated in parts per million or parts per billion

Bottle Water
U.S. has the worlds safest tap water due to billions of $$$ of investment Bottle water 240 to 10,000 times more expensive than tap water 25% of bottle water is tap water

Bottle Water
1.4 million metric tons of bottle thrown away each year Toxic fumes released during bottling Bottles made from oil based plastics Water does not need to meet SDWA