water pollution

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water pollution,

contamination of water resources by harmful wastes; see also seweragesewerage,
system for the removal and disposal of chiefly liquid wastes and of rainwater, which are collectively called sewage. The average person in the industrialized world produces between 60 and 140 gallons of sewage per day.
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, water supplywater supply,
process or activity by which water is provided for some use, e.g., to a home, factory, or business. The term may also refer to the supply of water provided in this way.
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, pollutionpollution,
contamination of the environment as a result of human activities. The term pollution refers primarily to the fouling of air, water, and land by wastes (see air pollution; water pollution; solid waste).
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, and environmentalismenvironmentalism,
movement to protect the quality and continuity of life through conservation of natural resources, prevention of pollution, and control of land use. The philosophical foundations for environmentalism in the United States were established by Thomas Jefferson,
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.

Industrial Pollution

In the United States industry is the greatest source of pollution, accounting for more than half the volume of all water pollution and for the most deadly pollutants. Some 370,000 manufacturing facilities use huge quantities of freshwater to carry away wastes of many kinds. The waste-bearing water, or effluent, is discharged into streams, lakes, or oceans, which in turn disperse the polluting substances. In its National Water Quality Inventory, reported to Congress in 1996, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency concluded that approximately 40% of the nation's surveyed lakes, rivers, and estuaries were too polluted for such basic uses as drinking supply, fishing, and swimming. The pollutants include grit, asbestosasbestos,
common name for any of a variety of silicate minerals within the amphibole and serpentine groups that are fibrous in structure and more or less resistant to acid and fire. Chrysotile asbestos, a form of serpentine, is the chief commercial asbestos.
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, phosphatesphosphate,
salt or ester of phosphoric acid, H3PO4. Because phosphoric acid is tribasic (having three replaceable hydrogen atoms), it forms monophosphate, diphosphate, and triphosphate salts in which one, two, or three of the hydrogens of the acid are
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 and nitratesnitrate,
chemical compound containing the nitrate (NO3) radical. Nitrates are salts or esters of nitric acid, HNO3, formed by replacing the hydrogen with a metal (e.g., sodium or potassium) or a radical (e.g., ammonium or ethyl).
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, mercurymercury
or quicksilver
[from the Roman god Mercury], metallic chemical element; symbol Hg [Lat. hydrargyrum=liquid silver]; at. no. 80; at. wt. 200.59; m.p. −38.842°C;; b.p. 356.58°C;; sp. gr. 13.55 at 20°C;; valence +1 or +2.
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, leadlead,
metallic chemical element; symbol Pb [Lat. plumbum]; at. no. 82; at. wt. 207.2; m.p. 327.502°C;; b.p. about 1,740°C;; sp. gr. 11.35 at 20°C;; valence +2 or +4.
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, caustic soda and other sodium compounds, sulfursulfur
or sulphur
, nonmetallic chemical element; symbol S; at. no. 16; interval in which at. wt. ranges 32.059–32.076; m.p. 112.8°C; (rhombic), 119.0°C; (monoclinic), about 120°C; (amorphous); b.p. 444.674°C;; sp. gr. at 20°C;, 2.07 (rhombic), 1.
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 and sulfuric acidsulfuric acid,
chemical compound, H2SO4, colorless, odorless, extremely corrosive, oily liquid. It is sometimes called oil of vitriol. Concentrated Sulfuric Acid

When heated, the pure 100% acid loses sulfur trioxide gas, SO3
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, oils, and petrochemicalspetrochemical,
any one of a large group of chemicals derived from a component of petroleum or natural gas. The cracking processes for manufacturing gasoline produce vast quantities of gaseous hydrocarbons.
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.

In addition, numerous manufacturing plants pour off undiluted corrosives, poisons, and other noxious byproducts. The construction industry discharges slurries of gypsum, cement, abrasives, metals, and poisonous solvents. Another pervasive group of contaminants entering food chains is the polychlorinated biphenylpolychlorinated biphenyl
or PCB,
any of a group of organic compounds originally widely used in industrial processes but later found to be dangerous environmental pollutants. Polychlorinated biphenyl is a fat-soluble, water-insoluble hydrocarbon containing chlorine.
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 (PCB) compounds, components of lubricants, plastic wrappers, and adhesives. In yet another instance of pollution, hot water discharged by factories and power plants causes so-called thermal pollution by increasing water temperatures. Such increases change the level of oxygen dissolved in a body of water, thereby disrupting the water's ecological balance, killing off some plant and animal species while encouraging the overgrowth of others.

Other Sources of Water Pollution

Towns and municipalities are also major sources of water pollution. In many public water systems, pollution exceeds safe levels. One reason for this is that much groundwater has been contaminated by wastes pumped underground for disposal or by seepage from surface water. When contamination reaches underground water tables, it is difficult to correct and spreads over wide areas. In addition, many U.S. communities discharge untreated or only partially treated sewage into the waterways, threatening the health of their own and neighboring populations.

Along with domestic wastes, sewage carries industrial contaminants and a growing tonnage of paper and plastic refuse (see solid wastesolid waste,
discarded materials other than fluids. In the United States in 1996, nearly 210 million tons—about 4.3 lb. (2 kg) per person daily (up from 2.7 lb./1.2 kg in 1960)—were collected and disposed of by municipalities.
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). Although thorough sewage treatment would destroy most disease-causing bacteria, the problem of the spread of viruses and viral illness remains. Additionally, most sewage treatment does not remove phosphorus compounds, contributed principally by detergents, which cause eutrophicationeutrophication
, aging of a lake by biological enrichment of its water. In a young lake the water is cold and clear, supporting little life. With time, streams draining into the lake introduce nutrients such as nitrogen and phosphorus, which encourage the growth of aquatic
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 of lakes and ponds. Excreted drugs and household chemicals also are not removed by present municipal treatment facilites, and can be recycled into the drinking water supply.

Rain drainage is another major polluting agent because it carries such substances as highway debris (including oil and chemicals from automobile exhausts), sediments from highway and building construction, and acids and radioactive wastes from mining operations into freshwater systems as well as into the ocean. Also transported by rain runoff and by irrigation return-flow are animal wastes from farms and feedlots, a widespread source of pollutants impairing rivers and streams, groundwater, and even some coastal waters. Antibiotics, hormones, and other chemicals used to raise livestock are components of such animal wastes. Pesticide and fertilizer residues from farms also contribute to water pollution via rain drainage.

Ocean Pollution

Large and small craft significantly pollute both inland and coastal waters by dumping their untreated sewage. Oil spilled accidentally or flushed from tankers and offshore rigs (900,000 metric tons annually) sullies beaches and smothers bird, fish, and plant life. In 1978 in one of the world's worst single instances of water pollution, the Amoco Cadiz broke in two on the coast of Brittany, France, and spilled 1.6 million barrels of oil, causing great environmental destruction. Oil well blowouts during offshore drilling, such as the 1979 Ixtoc 1 blowout in Gulf of Mexico off Mexico and the 2010 Deepwater Horizon blowout in the Gulf of Mexico off Louisiana, have also caused severe oil pollution. In addition to its direct damage to wildlife, oil takes up fat-soluble poisons like DDT, allowing them to be concentrated in organisms that ingest the oil-contaminated water; thus such poisons enter the food chains leading to sea mammals and people (see ecologyecology,
study of the relationships of organisms to their physical environment and to one another. The study of an individual organism or a single species is termed autecology; the study of groups of organisms is called synecology.
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).

Both DDT, which has been banned in the United States since 1972, and PCBs are manufactured in many parts of the world and are now widespread in the Atlantic and Pacific oceans. In addition, tarry oil residues are encountered throughout the Atlantic, as are styrofoam and other plastic rubbish. Plastic bits litter sections of the Pacific and Atlantic, accumulating in greater concentrations to form "garbage patches" where the currents are slack. Garbage, solid industrial wastes, and sludge formed in sewage treatment, all commonly dumped into oceans, are other marine pollutants found worldwide, especially along coastal areas.

Dangers of Water Pollution

Virtually all water pollutants are hazardous to humans as well as lesser species; sodium is implicated in cardiovascular disease, nitrates in blood disorders. Mercury and lead can cause nervous disorders. Some contaminants are carcinogens. DDT is toxic to humans and can alter chromosomes. PCBs cause liver and nerve damage, skin eruptions, vomiting, fever, diarrhea, and fetal abnormalities. Along many shores, shellfish can no longer be taken because of contamination by DDT, sewage, or industrial wastes.

Dysenterydysentery
, inflammation of the intestine characterized by the frequent passage of feces, usually with blood and mucus. The two most common causes of dysentery are infection with a bacillus (see bacteria) of the Shigella group, and infestation by an ameba,
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, salmonellosissalmonellosis
, any of a group of infectious diseases caused by intestinal bacteria of the genus Salmonella, including typhoid fever, paratyphoid fever, blood poisoning, and food poisoning (gastroenteritis).

Typhoid fever, caused by S.
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, cryptosporidiumcryptosporidium
, genus of protozoans having at least four species; they are waterborne parasites that cause the disease cryptosporidiosis. One of the species appears to be responsible for most of the illnesses.
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, and hepatitishepatitis
, inflammation of the liver. There are many types of hepatitis. Causes include viruses, toxic chemicals, alcohol consumption, parasites and bacteria, and certain drugs.
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 are among the maladies transmitted by sewage in drinking and bathing water. In the United States, beaches along both coasts, riverbanks, and lake shores have been ruined for bathers by industrial wastes, municipal sewage, and medical waste. Water pollution is an even greater problem in the Third World, where millions of people obtain water for drinking and sanitation from unprotected streams and ponds that are contaminated with human waste. This type of contamination has been estimated to cause more than 3 million deaths annually from diarrhea in Third World countries, most of them children.

Legislation and Control

The United States has enacted extensive federal legislation to fight water pollution. Laws include the Federal Water Pollution Control Act (1948), the Clean Water Act (1972), the Marine Protection, Research, and Sanctuaries Act (1972), the Safe Drinking Water Act (1974), and the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act, as amended in 1988. International cooperation is being promoted by the Inter-Governmental Maritime Consultive Organization (IMCO), a UN agency. Limitation of ocean dumping was proposed at the 80-nation London Conference of 1972, and in the same year 12 European nations meeting in Oslo adopted rules to regulate dumping in the North Atlantic. An international ban on ocean dumping in 1988 set further restrictions.

water pollution

[′wȯd·ər pə‚lü·shən]
(ecology)
Contamination of water by materials such as sewage effluent, chemicals, detergents, and fertilizer runoff.
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