Water Pollution, Research Paper Example
Words: 2197Research Paper
Water contamination by chemicals is a serious environmental problem because of the length of time chemicals take to neutralise underground. This is particularly true of pesticides. The ground water in the USA is used by around 50% of the population. The danger is that potential cacogenic and other toxin materials contaminate both the water supply and agricultural produce that uses the contaminated water for irrigation purposes. (Perlman, H. 2012) Pesticides get into the drinking water mainly in agricultural areas where there is a run off of rainwater from crops that have been sprayed with chemicals. It is estimated that a high proportion of US Citizens live in rural agricultural areas and as such rely upon clean groundwater as a source for drinking water. In the United States it has been estimated that over 500,000 tons of 600 different types of pesticides are released into the water system and this having a clean up cost of around $4.1 billion each year. Despite these alarming facts the widespread use of pesticides continues in the agricultural community. (Pimental, D. 1992)
The concept of water pollution is not confined to the USA and is increasingly prevalent in the third and developing world. This is particularly so where heavy industry and its resulting pollutants are either discharged into the atmosphere or into localised water supplies.
This paper demonstrates that water pollution is of a very serious consequence to all peoples of the world as it impacts so many different aspects of the ecology. It is considered that failure to take remedial measures may impact our longer term survival on this planet.
The Impact of Water Pollution
The main health hazards have been the result of pathogenic organisms, together with a toxic chemical composition that works on pollution of the groundwater. It has proved difficult to prove the extent of the damage in a country as large as the USA but statistics have been able to record and verify the frequency and number of known incidents of contamination. The cost of cleaning up aquifers after a contamination has taken place proves to be extremely expensive and often the logistics make the operation extremely difficult. The legal position on this can equally prove very complex in terms to interpret and administer. Farmers interviewed in the USA, under a basic agricultural survey, indicated that they had less concern for environmental conditions and were more focused on the pesticides doing their job and killing off the desired pests that may destroy their crops and potential livelihood. This is the strong argument for organic farming and not using pesticides but turning to natural means of safeguarding crops. A recent example of a widespread scare in food contamination was that of the E-Coli outbreak in Germany resulting in the panic destruction of crops in both Spain and the Netherlands, this subsequently resulting in the EU having to pay out large compensation sums to the farmers in both nations.
In the UK the situation of pesticide control and the release into groundwater has improved because of EU regulations that have become more stringent in this area. The graph to the right illustrates a decline from 1994 through to 1996 with a marginal increase in 1997.
One of the main concerns since the 1960’s is the amount of new chemical pesticides that have been introduced to the agricultural market place. This lethal cocktail of chemicals is relatively unknown in terms of the potential damage that it may cause to our water environmental system. We are producing new types of insecticides based upon the natural compound pyrethrum which includes such chemicals as resmethrin, deltamethryn, tetramethrin, fenvalerate etc. These all being extensively used in agricultural products. Farmers cannot be expected to know the biological composition and dangers of the chemicals so they are opening a Pandora’s Box.
The impact on wildlife
This is best explained by way of example. In the USA during the summer time, a vast quantity of polluted water flows down the river into the Gulf of Mexico. This has created an 8,000 square mile dead zone where aquatic life cannot survive. This caused by run-offs of sewage and fertilizer into the river that creates a toxic soup that is dangerous to both animals and humans alike. It creates toxic algae in the water that poisons seabirds, marine life and other creatures coming into contact with the water. Where any water of this nature is consumed into the drinking cycle it can have extremely serious consequences. The high level of nitrates in the water being particularly harmful to children and pregnant women. (Wallis-Thuma, D. 2012).
The Deep-water Horizon oil spill is an oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, which flowed for three months in 2010. It is the largest accidental marine oil explosion in the world. As result of spilling oil onto the fertile water, the environment, animals and economy have been damaged.
The explosion has affected the animals very badly. Many kinds of animals have died because of polluted water. Especially, the scientists are expecting an increase in the dolphin deaths because the birthing season for the dolphins had just started before the oil spill. Moreover, many kinds of sea birds, such as Brown Pelicans, died after their feather had covered with oil. In addition, the animals, which live around the Gulf of Mexico, could not find food. Due to those reasons, many animals of different species lost their lives. Secondly, after the explosion, approximately five million barrels of oil spilled into the Gulf of Mexico. Workers tried to clean up it in different ways, but they were not successful enough. Almost 1.5 million barrels of liquid waste were collected, but another 265.450 barrels of oil burned on the surface of the gulf. All chemical gases and toxins mixed with air. Cleaning all the oil took a long time; therefore, the oil spilled to larger area, and the pollution has become the biggest problem.
The oil spill hit the economy. First, the tourism industry in the gulf region was worth about $20 billion US in 2009. However, the number of visitors and hotel booking dropped off in the gulf region aftermath of the oil spill. The gulf coast’s fisheries were also affected by oil spill. Very large area of gulf fishing water was closed; and even today, a small area around the wellhead remains is still closed. The revenues remain under the 2009 levels.
The environmental disaster in the Gulf of Mexico may head towards criminal investigations and possible legal action from the Federal Government against those responsible for the creation of an environmental disaster in the Gulf of Mexico. In the event of criminal action taking place, it would set a new precedent in terms of a Federal Government perusing litigation against BP and the other parties deemed responsible for the environmental disaster. The delays in the inability of BP to cap the well caused a shift in the attitude of the administration, which saw a potential deepening of the crisis by pollution spreading to the beaches of the Mississippi and Alabama. Questions have been raised as to who is in overall authority of the situation? The Obama administration was quick to react by stating that they had taken control of the situation whilst BP would be held accountable for any potential damages as the result of its’ actions
The impact on Humans
Water pollution has such a diverse range of sources but all have a major impact on the health and wellbeing of humans. We need a regular clean, reliable and sustainable supply of drinking water in order to survive. The UK Guardian newspaper produced a report in 2010 that stated the entire world river systems were in danger from water pollution and that this could impact the security of some 5 billion people in the world. (Vaughan, A. 2012). The study concluded that some of the highest threat levels in the world apply to that of the USA and Europe. The report focused on three of the worlds great rivers i.e. The Yangtse, The Ganges and the Nile. All are considered to be under great stress, particularly because of the rise of industrial pollutants in the developing world countries. The report concluded that between 10,000 to 20,000 marine life species face the threat of extinction
Impact on marine and plant life
One example of where sea bourne water pollution has took a toll on marine life is in the coastal areas of Saudi Arabia. In Saudi Arabia 60% of the population live along the coastal areas, particularly that of the Red Sea Coast. This has become the focal point for construction and subsequently has seen an increase in the level of seaborne pollution taking place. We are now faced with a situation where sewage, toxic materials and other pollutants are seriously damaging the coral reefs. Climate change may well accelerate this process resulting in increased sea levels and the raising of sea temperatures ultimately destroying the coral reefs. This in turn would then result in increased sedimentation of enclosed seas. (Wilkinson, C. 1994)
Although this has also been linked to tghat of climate change, nevertheless it is human intervention putting toxic wastes into the sea that is the root cause of the problem here. This not only destroys the precious coral reefs, the habitat for a multitude of marine wild life, but many of the other mammals and species in this area.
Impact on food supply
The impact from water pollution does not always have immediate fallout. Nevertheless, ultimately it affects everyone and the consequences of this getting into the food chain is dire. An example being in Louisiana and the Gulf Area where the fish have become so contaminated with the toxins in the water that it has become a serious health hazard to eat fish from these waters. Another area of concern is the increased levels of mercury building in the oceans and the contamination it brings to certain species of fish like Tuna and Swordfish. Contaminated drinking water however represents one of the most serious threats for a lot of countries throughout the world. At the moment the Amazon is a relatively pollution free water but there are fears that construction work being carried out in Peru may result in large-scale pollutants being entered into this river system.
Diseases Associated With Water Pollution
Impacts of cholera are reported throughout the world where people gain the infection ‘vibrio cholerare’ from a bacteria that contaminates both food and drinking water. Often associated with poor areas where poor hygiene practices prevail. Death can occur within 24 hours of onset of symptoms without proper medical treatment. Africa, India, Bangladesh, and parts of S.E. Asia suffer some of the worst outbreaks. (Nevondo T.S. Cloete, 2001).
A similar disease that is transferred via bacteria introduced into polluted drinking water. Third world and developing countries remain vulnerable to outbreaks of Typhoid fever. Early detection is the key and getting treatment in place before it spreads into an epidemic. There are estimated to be about 17 million cases of typhoid cases reported world-wide. Vaccines are available but the real key to containment is by improved sanitary conditions and the introduction of clean water supplies.
This bacterial disease is most serious in the poorer countries of the world including Africa, India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh etc. It can lead to dysentery and other gastro intestinal illneses. The disease is reported by the World Health Authority to kill some 2.2 million people each year, mainly young children in developing world countries and is also linked to malnutrition and poor water hygiene / sanitation conditions. (World Health Organization, 2012)
In most circumstances water pollution is ‘man made’ or by man’s intervention into natural ecological systems. As man is the main protagonist he must take the responsibility for the prevention of polluting the water supply and putting in place policies and plans that will reverse this trend. This is particularly important in the industrial exploitation of the third world where there has been little concern for the natural environment. Equally developing countries like India and China have failed to recognise the importance of clean water supplies and the mass advancement in industrial operations has been to the detriment of the water supplies in those countries.
There is also an increased need for responsibility in chemicals and pesticides that are being produced. Equally how waste products are disposed of in order to prevent contamination of rivers and water supplies. (SDWF, 2012)
Nevondo T.S. Cloete, T. (2001, 9 1). The global Cholera pandemic. Science in Africa, pp. 1-5.
Perlman, H. (2012, 5 30). Pesticides in Ground Water. Retrieved from US Dept of Interior: http://ga.water.usgs.gov/edu/pesticidesgw.html
Pimental, D. (1992). Environmental and economic costs of psticide uses. Bioscience Vol 42 No 10, 750-760.
SDWF. (2012, 5 31). Water Pollution. Retrieved from SDWF: http://www.safewater.org/PDFS/resourcesknowthefacts/WaterPollution.pdf
Vaughan, A. (2012, 5 30). Human impact on world’s rivers ‘threatens water security of 5 billion’. Retrieved from Guardian UK : http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2010/sep/29/human-impact-world-rivers-water-security
Wallis-Thuma, D. (2012). How can water pollution affect animals, homes and health. National Geographic, 1-2.
Wilkinson, C. R. (1994). Global climaste change and coral reeefs: implications for people and reefs. Gland, Switzerland: UCN.
World Health Organization. (2012, 5 31). Water Related Diseases. Retrieved from World Health Organization: http://www.who.int/water_sanitation_health/diseases/diarrhoea/en/
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