Posts Tagged ‘water pollution’

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By: Jane Marsh

Environmental consciousness is rising, and civilians are taking action. Electric cars, solar panels and smart thermostats aid residents in shrinking their carbon footprint. Much of this technological action focuses on energy use, forgetting to acknowledge another form of degradation.

As the global temperature increases and glaciers disintegrate, we face a severe threat to humanity. Around one and three people globally lack access to clean drinking water. The decrease in water quality derives from an increase in pollution.

When universal sustainability falls behind, society faces fatal consequences. Fortunately, there are direct actions we can take to conserve the aquatic ecosystem. To evaluate these solutions, we must first unveil the troubles. 

Issues in Sustainability and Water Quality

Dead Zones

Farmers use pesticides and fertilizers to yield more fruitful crops. When heavy rains pass through agricultural regions, the water carries these artificial nutrients away from farms through rivers and streams. The discharge filters into the ocean, where marine life consumes it.

Fertilizers promote the overgrowth of algae that zooplankton consume. The microbial specie’s feces exhaust the ocean’s oxygen, making it uninhabitable to all marine life.   

As oceanic fish and plants die, it leaves the ecosystem off balance, setting a rippling effect throughout the sea. Reducing the number of species that filter bacteria and toxins in the water make for the overproduction of destructing elements. It also limits the amount of seafood available to humans, which some regions rely on for sustained nutrition.There are currently 25% of marine mammals on the endangered species list. If humanity continues to use pesticides and artificial fertilizers in agricultural production, this percentage will increase.

Polluted Reservoirs

Many folks source their drinking water from reservoirs, lakes, and other bodies of freshwater. There are two significant human impacts on the conservation of these water sources.

Eutrophication is the overgrowth of harmful bacteria and water species, which an increase in photosynthesizing elements causes. Like the ocean, fresh bodies of water can experience agricultural runoff, which offsets the organic ecosystem. This harms the filtration process of drinking water.

Deforestation around fresh bodies of water also affects its drinkability. Limiting the number of surrounding trees reduces shade, increasing the sunlight needed to promote photosynthesis. This encourages algae blooms, further destroying the aquatic habitat.

A decrease in bordering trees also increases the amount of carbon dioxide in the environment. This further promotes photosynthesis.    

Oil Pollution

Offshore drilling poses a significant threat to marine species. As we continue to drive fossil fuel burning cars, the oil demand will remain high. This demand pushes the production of offshore drilling.Oil spills, leaks, and mismanagement of rigs cause the oil to enter the ocean. This material cannot disintegrate and forms a thick sludge. The substance suffocates fish, blocks sunlight from plants, and destroys ocean floor habitats.

Sustainable Solutions

Humanity may engage in various sustainable actions to limit environmental degradation and increase Earth’s water quality. Enhancing aquatic habitats, reducing pesticide use, reducing stormwater runoff and limiting fossil fuel usage can conserve the purity of bodies of water.

Aquatic Aid

We can support endangered species by preserving their habitat. Built-up sediment and debris at the bottom of lakes and reservoirs constructed by runoff limits aquatic homes. Humans can take action to rebuild this region.

One can utilize dredges to remove harmful buildup on the bottom of a body of water. Digging up and vacuuming away this contaminated sediment allows for aquatic species to flourish in a supported environment.  

Organic Alternatives

Farmers may also reduce their pesticide use to limit oceanic degradation. Rather than using toxic artificial fertilizers and chemicals, producers can utilize organic alternatives.

To keep grasshoppers from disrupting crop growth, farmers can plant calendula, cilantro, or horehound around the perimeter of their land. They can also ward off mice by planting mint and peppermint, two herbs that they despise.

There are various other sustainable gardening solutions that farmers can use to limit pesticide and fertilizer runoff. One can also reduce the amount of water traveling through agricultural regions by collecting and reusing rainwater.     

Rainwater Harvesting Systems

To reduce the number of chemicals and debris carried into the ocean and freshwater sources, one can install a rainwater harvesting system. The technology collects and stores rainwater for residential usage. They vary from advanced techniques to manual aids.

Some barrels hold stormwater and purify it. Homeowners can use the water for showering, washing clothes, and drinking. Basic systems do not filter water, but homeowners can still use it for irrigation, washing cars, flushing toilets and more.

Reusing stormwater reduces environmental degradation caused by runoff and water waste.  

Renewable Energy Sourcing

Society can reduce its carbon emissions by limiting the demand for offshore drilling. Utilizing renewable energy sources to fuel cars, home heating and more can reduce this demand.

Citizens may install solar panels on homes, commercial buildings and farms to limit our need to burn fossil fuels. One may also use wind turbines to source renewable energy to fuel their life. As we reduce our carbon emissions, we limit the amount of oil in the ocean and the climate changes.

Consumer Education

Individuals’ actions influence the sustainability of the planet, but the impact is limited. To access global conservation, we must have difficult conversations with community leaders and government officials.

Prioritizing water conversation can reduce degradation and the threat to clean drinking water. You can talk to your community about adding solar panels to commercial buildings and rain harvesting systems throughout your county. One may also vote to restrict pesticides and artificial fertilizers from the agricultural industry.

When we all work together, we can access sustainable solutions. These actions can preserve the amount of seafood available to coastal residents and species and adequate hydration.

Jane Marsh is an environmental writer. You can keep up with her work on her site Environment.co.

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By: Angela Trenkle

Photo Credit: Angela Trenkle, on November 8th 2020 at Great Falls Park in Virginia

If you are a resident in the DC Metropolitan area, chances are you have come across the Potomac River in some form, whether it is the river proper or one of the river’s tributaries, the mighty Potomac River is a landmark of the area in the same way that some of the famous buildings are in the downtown DC area. There are tales of the Potomac that stretch back to some of the nation’s earliest presidents reaping its benefits. If rivers could talk, the Potomac would have an endless number of historical accounts to pass along for the world to learn.

Photo Credit: Angela Trenkle, on November 8th 2020 at Great Falls Park in Virginia

Today, the Potomac River watershed is home to approximately 5 million people as well as millions of animals and plants that depend on it for its many resources. Clean drinking water is at the top of the list followed by food sources for both humans and animals that occupy the watershed. The river is also utilized by hundreds during the warmer months of the year for recreational activities, including, but not limited to, kayaking, fishing, hiking, bird watching, and stand-up paddle boarding.

Photo Credit: Angela Trenkle, on August 8th, 2020 at Mason Neck Wildlife Refuge on the Potomac River

For a period of time from the 1960s to the late 2000s, the Potomac River was in a state of decline and poor health. Water clarity was at an all time low, trash and algae were abundant, and native fish suffered because of the urban runoff that was making its way into their homes along the river. This has begun to turn around since the beginning of the 2010s, thanks to several key processes that were put into place. 

One such process is the creation of the Potomac River Report Card. The report card, which began in 2007, provides residents of the watershed an easy format to view the different aspects of the river in terms of its health and the areas in which it improves as well as declines. This gives residents of the watershed a visual of what is happening and the areas that they can target for improvement. Thanks to this report card, in addition to the other processes put into place for the river, the Potomac has gone from an abysmal grade of “D” in 2007 to a peak grade of a “B” just three years ago in 2018. In 2020, the grade slipped slightly to a B-, showing that the river recovery is plateauing. Now is a turning point to ensure that it does not slip any further.

Photo Credit: Angela Trenkle, on November 8th 2020 at Great Falls Park in Virginia

To ensure that the flora and fauna thrive as well as make sure that our grandchildren can appreciate the river in the same way we have, you too can do your part to make a difference. Some ways that you can help include:

  1. Participating in stream cleanups to prevent water pollution and premature death of wildlife.
  2. Planting trees as forest buffers to cool stream temperatures and create forest corridors for animal travel.
  3. Use your voice to advocate for stronger water protection laws. 
  4. Donate to organizations that are working towards protecting the Potomac River and its tributaries.
Photo Credit: Angela Trenkle, on August 8th 2020 at Mason Neck Wildlife Refuge (See left of photo)

As you can see, there are many benefits to the Potomac River not only for us, but for the animals and plants that depend on it for survival. By each of us doing our part and coming together with a common goal to make a difference, we can ensure that the Potomac is around for many generations to enjoy.

***

Angela Trenkle is a scientific technical writer who was born and raised in Maryland. Her love of science combined with her passion for writing led her into the field of scientific technical communication at a pre-clinical research organization where her work involves contributing to the documentation of study reports for various infectious diseases including COVID-19. Preserving the natural world is an important goal for her and she plans to use what she has learned over the years to help do her part in restoring local watersheds for future generations to enjoy. When she is not working, she enjoys reading, writing, traveling, running, weightlifting, and spending as much time outdoors as possible.

An American River

Sep
2020
04

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The Racial History of the Anacostia Is the Racial History of the United States

Photo: Crossing the Anacostia River outside the West Hyattsville Metro

By: Eliza Nellums

In these hazy days of social distance, I like to walk along the trails that follow the Anacostia River through Prince George’s County, Maryland. There I see my neighbors, mostly people of color, cooling off in the water and teaching their kids to fish. 

But the fish in the Anacostia are dangerous to eat and, in some places, just touching the sediment at the bottom of the river is considered a cancer risk – due to “legacy toxins” from industrial development. I’ve been thinking a lot about legacy toxins – of all kinds – lately. 

The Anacostia River is only nine miles long. It flows south from Prince George’s County, through Southeast D.C. – where it gives its name to a neighborhood in Ward 8 – before it empties into the Potomac. From there the water travels into the Chesapeake Bay. 

But along its short length, it contains six different superfund sites.

The river has a rich role in American history. The name “Anacostia” is taken from the native peoples recorded by Captain John Smith. They were pushed from their lands by the 1700s. When the site of the capital city was first being decided, the Anacostia was part of the reason George Washington selected the present-day location of Washington D.C. – because it provided access to the wealthy port towns around Bladensburg. But by 1800, the city’s development had made the river too full of silt to be navigable. The Navy Yard, carved out of its banks, was key to the Union Army’s strategy during the Civil War. By 1892, the Army Corps of Engineers was required to dredge the river and fill the wetlands. Prevented from flowing naturally, the river was considered a source of disease. Barry Farm, a settlement for African-Americans, was established on the banks in 1867. It was eventually cut off from the river by the construction of a freeway in the 1950s.

As Washington D.C. continues to develop, people of color are  pushed up the river into Prince George’s County. At one point, it was among the most affluent majority African American counties in the U.S. Unsurprisingly, industrial development has been pushed upstream at the same time.  As fossil fuel plants in the city proper have been shut down, more have been built or proposed in Prince George’s County. 

As my neighbors pull catfish out of the stream – a District Department of Environment study found that 74 percent of people fishing in the river were eating or sharing the fish they caught – I think about our toxic legacy. 

A river can represent the struggles of the people that live along its banks. And like its nation, the Anacostia River will require a lot more work before we can all be safe in it. 

Eliza Nellums is a writer and a resident of Prince George’s County, Maryland. She is the author of All That’s Bright and Gone, a novel.