Essay on "Water Pollution"
Mega Farms Effects On Water
Water Pollution has been an increasing problem over the last few years. Pollution itself is when a substance or energy is introduced into the soil, air, or water in a concentrate. Pollution comes in many forms; agricultural, urban runoff, industrial, sedimentary, animal wastes, and leeching from landfills/septic systems just to name a few. These pollutants are very detrimental to the environment. Whether they are alone or combined with another form of pollution they are very harmful. Over the last hundred years the problems with pollution have been increasing with time. This is due to both the increase in human population, and the increases in technology we have made as a society. If we plan on having our resources here for many years to come we are going to have to make some drastic changes in the way we treat the earth, and these changes will have to start with our pollutants. (Jones,1993,pp.4-15)
Agricultural pollution is a very big contributor to water pollution. Problems we see with agriculture are applications of fertilizers, insecticides, and pesticides. We have made vast improvements in the types of chemicals we are using, as to how environmentally friendly they are. In 1985 the Amount of fertilizer added to America’s fields was 11.5 million tons. Not only do these chemicals leech in to the soil, but they are also swept off the soils by rain and wind. When these fertilizers reach the water there is a sudden boom in plant growth. When the plants die, bacteria that need oxygen to live eat their bodies. This starts to deplete the amount of oxygen in the water for other fish and animals to live and breath, and they end up dying. Besides the chemical contamination on the farm there are major problems with animal wastes. (Jones,1993,pp.39-60)
Over the last 30 or so years there has been an increased demand for food. Foods like pork, chicken, turkey, and beef. With the demand for meats, there is also an increased demand for grains to feed these animals. So more land is needed to grow the feed, less space is available for the feedlots. More and more of these feedlots have been popping up over the landscape. And the amounts of animals crammed into the small spaces are also increasing. There can be as few as 50 to as many as 7 million in a single confinement. It is estimated that the amount of livestock waste is 13 times greater than the amount of human sanitary waste generated in the United States (Hoag,1999,pp28-29). Think about the total amount of wastes produced in a day at one of these confinements. This waste is either pumped into bins, earthen lagoons, or spread onto fields as fertilizer. These waste storage facilities pose a great threat to the environment. Animal waste contains many polluants that can contaminate surface and ground water used as drinking water source. The greatest health concern associated with livestock is pathogens. Organisms like Cryptosporidium, E.Coli, Giardia lamblia and Salmonella can infect humans if ingested. Particularly strains of E. coli can cause serious illness and even death. Cryptosporidium is of particular concern because it is highly resistant to disinfections with chlorine. Animal waste contains many other pollutants that affect humans and water quality. Antibiotics, pesticides and hormones also used in animal feeding operations can become harmful pollutants as well. (Johnson,1991,pp.68-99).
A lagoon, or waste storage pond is made by excavating earth fill to provide temporary storage of animal waste. This practice can reduce the amount of organics, pathogens and nutrients entering surface waters, however, most of the lagoons are not properly constructed and maintained allowing manure to seep into the ground contaminating the ground water. They can also break causing a major spill. In 1995 a North Carolina hog farm had a lagoon break through its side and spill into the New York River. The lagoon held approximately 25 million gallons of feces and urine. When these spills occur the animal life in the body of water they pollute is wiped out. The manure kills the fish just as the fertilizers do. They produce a major algae bloom, and when the plants die they produce a large amount of bacteria that use up the oxygen in the water causing the fish and other animals to die. (Keller,2002,pp.333)
Lagoons have three distinct zones containing liquids, sludge and solids. These wastes can later be pumped out and applied to cropland as fertilizer. Because of the risk to ground water, good planning, design, and maintenance are critical when using a lagoon for animal waste storage. Two important components are the location and the liner of the lagoon. Lagoons should be located down slope from wells and never sited on floodplains. Lagoon should be constructed with a low-permeability liner made of synthetic material or geo-textiles or formed by compacted clay or other soil material. After the liner is made it is important to maintain its integrity during the waste removal process. Any erosion can lead to seepage and contamination of ground water. Two practices to protect the liner are building a concrete access ramp for waste removal equipment and operating equipment under dry conditions by first removing all the liquids and letting the solids dry. (Johnson,1991, pp.68-82)
Another large contributor to water pollution is industrial runoff. Industrial pollution has been a big problem for many years. Though strict laws are cutting down the amount of pollutants being dispersed into the rivers and lakes. Thousands of different industries are dumping hazardous wastes into our rivers and lakes in the form of tainted waters. They use the water for cleaning or cooling purposes, and with the dangerous pollutants still in the water it is just pumped out. Many different forms of pollutants such as benzene, chlorotoluene, ethylbenzene, nitrobenzene, styrene, trichloroethylene, and vinyl chloride are being found in our drinking water. Many of these chemicals are being monitored because of how dangerous they are. (Jones 1993,63-73)
These pollution problems we are facing today are being monitored by hundreds of different agencies, which enforce many different laws. These laws were started to help to protect the environment. Things like the Clean Water Act of 1972 help to protect the nations waters. This act sets specific standards for pollution control and water quality. Its two main goals are to eliminate the pollutants that are dumped into the nation’s water, and to achieve fishable and swimmable water. This act was the first of many that have been passed to ensure water quality. The safe drinking water act of 1974 is another important act that was passed. This act made maximum levels of pollutants in the drinking water, and gave the EPA the right to enforce these standards. It also recommended certain ways to treat the contaminated water. There are hundreds of different acts and amendments that try to protect and improve the quality of our nations water. We spend huge amounts of money trying to improve and treat our water. (Keller, 2002,pp.353-354)The problems we face with pollution today are very important. Important enough for the government to pass many acts and amendments to control the amounts of pollutants that are released into our waterways. This problem has been growing with time. Though pollution is such a widespread problem we can do our part in cleaning up the world by just doing one small thing at a time.