Monday, July 19, 2010

Effects of ground water pollution

For millennia, man has disposed of his waste products in a variety of ways. The disposal method might reflect convenience, expedience, expense, or best available technology, but in many instances, leachate from these wastes have come back to haunt later generations. This is largely because we have not thought out the consequences of our actions. Ground-water pollution may lead to problems of inconvenience, such as taste, odor, color, hardness, or foaming; but the pollution problems are far more serious when pathogenic organisms, flammable or explosive substances, or toxic chemicals or their by-products are present, particularly when long-term health effects are unknown.

Individual polluted ground-water sites generally are not large, but once polluted, ground water may remain in an unusable or even hazardous condition for decades or even centuries. The typically low velocity of ground water prevents a great deal of mixing and dilution; consequently, a contaminant plume may maintain a high concentration as it slowly moves from points of recharge to zones of discharge.

An oil-field brine holding pond was constructed adjacent to a producing well in central Ohio in 1968. Two years later when the well was plugged, the holding pond was filled, graded, and seeded. The chloride concentration in the ground water in the vicinity of the former pond still exceeded 36,000 mg/1 some 10 years after the operation began and 8 years after reclamation.

Scores of brine holding ponds were constructed in central Ohio during an oil boom in 1964; many are still in use. In 1978 a number of test holes were constructed within 200 feet of one such pond. Within this area shallow ground water contained as much as 50,000 mg/1 of chloride. Moreover, brine-contaminated ground water provides part of the flow of many streams and this has caused degradation of surface-water quality.

Documentation of the migration of leachate plumes originating at garbage dumps and landfills is becoming increasingly abundant. Data show that under certain hydrologic conditions leachate plumes can move considerable distances and degrade ground water throughout wide areas. Furthermore, the problem is worldwide. Exler3z described a situation in southern Bavaria, Germany, where a landfill has been in operation since 1954 The wastes are dumped into a dry gravel pit. As Figure 116 illustrates, data collected from 1967 to 1970 showed the narrow lense-shaped plume had migrated nearly 2 miles.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Economic growth and water pollution

While water is a renewable resource, its availability in time and space is limited, being largely determined by the climate, geography and other bio-physical conditions of a particular region as well as a set of technologies that permit the rate at which water is conserved and used (TERI 2000). India's economy, with its opening to the outside world in 1991, has entered a new development stage. It has brought progress to the country in many aspects. India's economy is currently growing at between 7% and 8% per annum, making it one of the fastest growing economies in the world. The driving force behind this has been the reform program undertaken in the wake of the balance of payments crisis in 1991. The reform program that followed marked a new willingness to allow market forces the freedom to work.
It included significant industrial and trade liberalization, financial deregulation, improvements to supervisory and regulatory systems and policies more conducive to privatization and foreign direct investment (Aggarwal 2003). These reforms gave a sharp boost to economic growth in the country. However the benefits of this impressive growth have been accompanied amongst other problems by severe environmental degradation. Environmental pollution is one of the serious problems being faced by the people in the country. The rapid growth of population is aggravating the problem by putting more pressure on natural resources. India is the second most populous country in the world after China. One of the biggest challenges that the country faces today is to provide safe drinking water to its ever increasing population.

A number of empirical studies suggest that when a country is in its early stage of economic development, environmental degradation is inevitable. The relationship between economic growth and environmental degradation is explained by an inverted U-shaped curve called Environmental Kuznets (EKC) curve. The EKC hypothesis states that pollution levels increase in the early stages of development, but decrease as income rises beyond a certain point. This relationship was first observed by Grossman and Krueger (1995) in their investigation of the possible environmental impacts of a North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and they found that any economic growth accompanying Mexico's inclusion in NAFTA would ultimately benefit Mexico's environment (Nahman 2005). Since then a number of empirical studies have been conducted to test the validity of the environmental quality-income relationship (Arrow 1995; Grossman 1995; Panayotou 1995; Stern 2004).

Most empirical studies on the EKC hypothesis use cross-sectional data consisting of several countries for their empirical estimations. In this study we have taken a single country approach i.e. to study water pollution problem in different states of the same country instead of a cross-country analysis. A national level study assumes that all regions in a nation will follow the same pattern, thus overlooking the regional disparities. But for a country like India regional differences can be very significant. This is because of sharp and increasing regional variations among India's states in terms of per capita income, poverty, population, and socioeconomic development. One factor that binds these diverse states together is the legal institutions. The central pollution control board (CPCB) has oversight powers over the various state boards. It sets emission standards and lays down ambient standards (Maria 2003). The implementation of the national environmental laws and enforcement of the standards set by the CPCB is decentralized at the level of each state, with the state pollution control board in charge of the state-level implementation (Maria 2003). Therefore, the levels of pollution may also differ due to disparity in the implementation level of these policies in different states of India. Thus, the environment--income relationship may not only differ across nations, but also across regions of the same country (Borghesi 1999).

Ocean water pollution

Pollution in the ocean is a major problem that is affecting the ocean and the rest of the Earth, too. Pollution in the ocean directly affects ocean organisms and indirectly affects human health and resources. Oil spills, toxic wastes, and dumping of other harmful materials are all major sources of pollution in the ocean. People should learn more about these because if people know more about pollution in the ocean, then they will know more about how to stop pollution.

What are toxic wastes?

Toxic wastes are poisonous materials that are being dumped into the ocean. They harm many plants and animals in the ocean and have a huge impact on our health. Toxic waste is the most harmful form of pollution to sea life and humans. When toxic waste harms an organism, it can quickly be passed along the food chain and may eventually end up being our seafood. In the food chain, one toxic organism gets eaten by another, larger animal, which gets eaten by another animal, and can end up being our seafood. Toxic waste gets into seas and oceans by the leaking of landfills, dumps, mines, and farms. Farm chemicals and heavy metals from factories can have a very harmful effect on marine life and humans.

Many fishermen believe that the toxic chemicals in the ocean are killing much of the fish population. One of the most harmful chemicals in the ocean is lead. Lead can cause many health problems. It can damage the brain, kidneys, and reproductive system. Lead can also cause birth defects for people. It has been shown to cause low IQ scores, slow growth, and hearing problems for small children. House and car paint and manufacturing lead batteries, fishing lures, certain parts of bullets, some ceramic ware, water pipes, and fixtures all give off lead.

Many things found in the ocean may cause seafood to be dangerous to human health. The effect on humans from contaminated seafood may include birth defects and nervous system damage. Medical waste found in the ocean is being tested to see if swimmers have a chance of developing Hepatitis or AIDS. Other waste has been known to cause viral and bacterial diseases. This type of pollution can be stopped by watching what pollution we are letting into the ocean. People are trying to decrease the amount of waste in the oceans by recycling as much garbage as they can so there is a smaller amount of very harmful materials in the ocean.

Boating Pollution Prevention Tips:-

Whenever someone takes their boat onto the water for a ride, it is creating pollution that can be very harmful to the sea life. Boating pollution is the pollution that comes from the boat’s engine when it is running, and it pollutes the water, killing animals with the chemicals in the exhaust from the engine. The engine gives off excess gasoline, which pollutes the waters and ends up killing the animals. In order to make as little pollution as possible, what everyone can do to help is:

-Only turn a boat engine on all the way when you need to.

-Don’t take your boat out into the water if you don’t need to.

-Be sure to store and transport gasoline in places where there isn’t any direct sunlight because the gasoline will evaporate, and all of the gases that have been evaporated will pollute the air.

-Every year, buy new or cleaner marine engines for your boats.

Garbage Dumping:-

Garbage dumping is the dumping of harmful materials into the ocean like human waste, ground-up garbage, water from bathing, and plastics. Most of the waste that has been dumped into the ocean in the early 1990’s is still there today. One main cause of garbage dumping occurs when sewage pipes share their space with storm water drains. Rainfall causes the sewage pipes to overflow and the sewage waste mixes with the storm water drain, which flows into another water source such as a lake or river. After that, the garbage pollutes the ocean, kills plants and animals in the water (for example, the plastic rings that are around pop cans can get around an animal’s neck, causing it to suffocate), and makes the water dirty.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Water pollution and Health

Contamination of water reserves by either chemical agents or infectious pathogens may affect the health of millions of residents of many countries. Water consumers are frequently unaware of the potential health risks associated with exposure to waterborne contaminants and often consult practicing physicians who are unfamiliar with water pollution issues and their subsequent impact on human health. Misdiagnosis and underdiagnosis of waterborne disease by the medical community may result in significant morbidity and mortality, particularly in vulnerable populations at increased risk of disease as a result of exposure to waterborne pathogens and chemical contaminants.

In addition, the events of September 11th emphasize the need for practicing healthcare providers to recognize unusual disease trends and early warning signs that may result from potential biological or chemical terrorism. Although the risk is extremely low, these covert attacks may include an assault on water safety. Primary care practitioners throughout the United States must be especially vigilant in light of the fact that they are likely to be the first to observe unusual illness patterns and must therefore understand their critical role in protecting water resources and their community's health. This Physician On-Line Reference Guide provides a repository of educational information and preparedness resources for practicing physicians who must understand not only how to detect biological and chemical weapons exposure but also how to respond to this threat appropriately.

Any future strategic plan to maintain and protect water quality and safety in every country must include physicians as stakeholders and active participants in this ongoing public health challenge. Unfortunately, the majority of practicing physicians have received no formalized training in the recognition and evaluation of waterborne disease or in the management of the short- and long-term health effects of water pollution or contamination during their medical education or subsequently during their years in active clinical practice. The purpose of this Physician On-Line Reference Guide is to attempt to address this critical information gap and to provide busy practicing clinicians with informational resources and educational tools to assist them in the recognition of waterborne disease and the health effects of water pollution.

Surface water pollution

Surface water pollution is still a problem in Northeast Wisconsin despite decades of effort, partly due to industrial and sewage pipe discharges into lakes, rivers and streams. Though wastewater treatment plants have been built and some regulations have been passed, our region's population continues to grow rapidly and industrial production is increasing. Incremental improvements in wastewater treatment are sometimes negated by sheer volume. Couple this with loopholes in the laws and compromised water quality standards, and we still have a lot of work to do to protect public health and wildlife from water pollution.

Key Weaknesses in Water Protection
Political Pressure and Corruption
:- The Wisconsin Dept. of Natural Resources (DNR) has prime responsiblity for enforcing the federal Clean Water Act and additional state rules, but is under constant pressure from lawmakers and lobbyists to weaken the rules, or grant variances and exemptions to specific projects or industries. In recent years, the DNR has suffered severe budget and staff cuts, and two dysfunctional reorganizations. While we tend to blame the DNR for environmental problems, the real culprits are the Governor and State Legislators who control the agency. Lack of leadership and campaign corruption are the real problems. (See Campaign Finance Reform)

Compromised Health Standards :- Water quality standards, which are used to regulate the discharge of wastewater, are the product of intense negotiations during the state rule-making process. The DNR generally creates Advisory Committees which include lobbyists for many of the sources of the pollution, and these committees are charged with trying to find "consensus" on what the standards should be. This often results in compromises which don't fully protect public health or wildlife. Some regulations never pass because of this political process. Two recent examples are the DNR's proposed Mercury Control Rule, which Republican legislators have blocked from passing, and the PCB Soil Criteria, a 4.5 year effort, which the DNR refused to propose due to pressure from sewage treatment plant operators, paper industries and harbor interests.

Lack of Health Standards :- In the United States, a chemical is considered innocent until proven guilty, which means that a company can release a new toxic chemical into Wisconsin's environment (and risk future liabilities), but the Wisconsin DNR can't stop them until they have "adequate" scientific proof of harm from the chemical. It can take years of study (and millions of taxpayers' research dollars) to develop this proof, and then at least 2 to 3 years of DNR Advisory Committee negotiations, but by then serious damage may have happened already.

A recent example is PBDE (polybrominated diphenyl ether) which is used as a fire-retardant in carpeting, drapes, computer equipment, foam cushions and a wide array of other common consumer products. PBDE has been measured at high levels in Lake Michigan fish, in mother's breastmilk, in wastewater discharges and sewage sludge which is spread throughout Wisconsin. PBDE is believed to have many of the same toxic properties as PCBs and it bioaccumulates up the food chain, just like PCBs. Several European countries have already banned the chemical, and California recently passed a phase-out ban. Wisconsin and the federal government are slow to respond.

Roughly 80,000 chemicals are in common use, but health standards have been developed for only a few hundred, and those are often not comprehensive. Many regulated chemicals have still not been studies for full health effects --- usually only cancer --- not reproductive effects, child development effects or damage to the nervous, immune, respiratory, hormonal or circulatory systems.

Infrequent, Skimpy Monitoring and Inspections :- Wisconsin wastewater dischargers are required to take one "Priority Pollutant Scan" only once every 5 years. This scans for several hundred chemicals known to be toxic, but one sample is not a scientifically or statistically valid survey. Worse yet, the dischargers take their own samples when and where they want to, without supervision from the DNR. When the DNR issues the following 5 year permit, most dischargers will be required to take regular samples for only a handful of chemicals, and all the rest will be unknown quantities dumped in our public waterways. Facility inspections are also skimpy, with the DNR visiting major pollution sources only 1 or 2 times per year, often giving several days advance notice.

Loopholes in Discharge Rules :- Wastewater permit rules contain loopholes which allow acutely toxic and chronically toxic mixing zones in rivers downstream of discharge pipes. In many cases, the indistries take advantage of the polluted river conditions by using variances in water quality standards. For example, paper industries on the Fox River are able to discharge PCBs at a concentration equal to the background water concentrations of PCBs, even though this level is a violation of Wisconsin's PCB water quality criteria. In other words, the paper industry is being rewarded for polluting the Fox River with PCBs. Wisconsin's water anti-degradation law is also a farce because it is, in fact, a stepped degradation scheme. Dischargers are generally evaluated for individual immediate effects, rather then combining the analysis of several dischargers and determining their combined and long-term effects.

Contaminated Sediments :-Wisconsin faces serious lingering problems due to accumulated toxic chemicals in river and lake sediments, from past pollution. Clean Water Action Council has been fighting 18 years to get the Fox River PCB sediment contamination cleaned up, but in the last seven miles of the river, the DNR and EPA recently chose a cleanup target which will leave the river and bay unhealthy for another 55-100+ years - another example of successful industry lobbying. (see Fox River Watch) Worse yet, Wisconsin hasn't learned its lesson. Longterm chemical buildup in sediments is not factored into Wisconsin's discharge laws - the DNR only regulates to achieve concentration standards in the chemicals actually suspended in the water. The rules which control wastewater discharge permits actually treat our rivers as if they are lined with Teflon and lead nowhere, as if chemical pollutants won't "stick" to our river sediments or accumulate at the mouths of our rivers. This must change, or we'll see PCB-type situations repeated over and over again around Wisconsin.

Water pollution in Urban areas

Urban areas problem :-
Urban areas have the potential to pollute water in many ways. Runoff from streets carries oil, rubber, heavy metals, and other contaminants from automobiles. Untreated or poorly treated sewage can be low in dissolved oxygen and high in pollutants such as fecal coliform bacteria, nitrates, phosphorus, chemicals, and other bacteria. Treated sewage can still be high in nitrates. Groundwater and surface water can be contaminated from many sources such as garbage dumps, toxic waste and chemical storage and use areas, leaking fuel storage tanks, and intentional dumping of hazardous substances. Air pollution can lead to acid rain, nitrate deposition, and ammonium deposition, which can alter the water chemistry of lakes.

Solutions :-
Solutions involve finding sustainable ways for the urban area to reduce both its dependence on pollutants and the amount of pollutants it produces, and to properly recycle or dispose of pollutants before they contaminate soil, water, or air. See the discussion below under "Lakes that Face this Problem" for more detailed solutions that have been tried at various lakes.

Preventing pollution in urban areas is often largely a public relations task. People need to be educated about proper ways to dispose of waste. Showing each other where waste goes and the problems it can create in our watersheds is an effective way to get the message across.

Of course, regulations are often necessary to reduce the amount of pollutants contaminating our watersheds, and the Lake Biwa Ordinance is an example of regulatory measures (such as prohibiting synthetic detergents) making a big difference.

Lakes that face this problem :-
The Broads, United Kingdom
Phosphate-rich sewage effluent from the growing human population in the Broads has gradually entered the Broads waterways. This led to the growth of algae, loss of water plants and a serious decline in the wildlife interest of the broads. Phosphate stripping and suction dredging are being used to address this problem.

La Nava Wetland, Spain
(FPNE) is working to solve pollution problems affecting La Nava Wetland. Solutions include purifying wastewater draining into the wetland, rerouting drainage ditches, and closing a garbage dump that releases contaminants.

Lake Biwa, Japan
Since the 1970s, nutrient pollution from nitrogen and phosphorus runoff has caused algae blooms and eutrophication. The government has set pollution reduction goals and banned the destruction of reed marshes.

Water pollution declines males fertility rate

New research strengthens the link between water pollution and rising male fertility problems. The study, by Brunel University, the Universities of Exeter and Reading and the Centre for Ecology & Hydrology, shows for the first time how a group of testosterone-blocking chemicals is finding its way into UK rivers, affecting wildlife and potentially humans.

The study identified a new group of chemicals that act as ‘anti-androgens’. This means that they inhibit the function of the male hormone, testosterone, reducing male fertility. Some of these are contained in medicines, including cancer treatments, pharmaceutical treatments, and pesticides used in agriculture. The research suggests that when they get into the water system, these chemicals may play a pivotal role in causing feminising effects in male fish.

Earlier research by Brunel University and the University of Exeter has shown how female sex hormones (estrogens), and chemicals that mimic estrogens, are leading to ‘feminisation’ of male fish. Found in some industrial chemicals and the contraceptive pill, they enter rivers via sewage treatment works. This causes reproductive problems by reducing fish breeding capability and in some cases can lead to male fish changing sex.

Other studies have also suggested that there may be a link between this phenomenon and the increase in human male fertility problems caused by testicular dysgenesis syndrome. Until now, this link lacked credence because the list of suspects causing effects in fish was limited to estrogenic chemicals whilst testicular dysgenesis is known to be caused by exposure to a range of anti-androgens.

Lead author on the research paper, Dr Susan Jobling at Brunel University’s Institute for the Environment, said: “We have been working intensively in this field for over ten years. The new research findings illustrate the complexities in unravelling chemical causation of adverse health effects in wildlife populations and re-open the possibility of a human – wildlife connection in which effects seen in wild fish and in humans are caused by similar combinations of chemicals. We have identified a new group of chemicals in our study on fish, but do not know where they are coming from. A principal aim of our work is now to identify the source of these pollutants and work with regulators and relevant industry to test the effects of a mixture of these chemicals and the already known environmental estrogens and help protect environmental health.”

Senior author Professor Charles Tyler of the University of Exeter said: ”Our research shows that a much wider range of chemicals than we previously thought is leading to hormone disruption in fish. This means that the pollutants causing these problems are likely to be coming from a wide variety of sources. Our findings also strengthen the argument for the cocktail of chemicals in our water leading to hormone disruption in fish, and contributing to the rise in male reproductive problems. There are likely to be many reasons behind the rise in male fertility problems in humans, but these findings could reveal one, previously unknown, factor.”

Bob Burn, Principal Statistician in the Statistical Services Centre at the University of Reading, said: ”State-of- the- art statistical hierarchical modelling has allowed us to explore the complex associations between the exposure and potential effects seen in over 1000 fish sampled from 30 rivers in various parts of England.”

The research took more than three years to complete and was conducted by the University of Exeter, Brunel University, University of Reading and the Centre for Ecology & Hydrology. Statistical modelling was supported by Beyond the Basics Ltd.

The research team is now focusing on identifying the source of anti-androgenic chemicals, as well as continuing to study their impact on reproductive health in wildlife and humans.

The research was supported by the Natural Environment Research Council and is now published in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives.