Everyone deserves healthy, clean water to complete daily activities such as showering and cooking. Unfortunately, water pollution can make it impossible for both people and wildlife to access clean water, making everyday life incredibly difficult. Understanding how water contamination occurs and the ways you can help prevent it is essential to make changes that uplift our environment and protect our water sources.
What Is Water Pollution?
Water pollution refers to the contamination of a water source by substances that make it dangerous or unusable for:
- Watering plants
From organic waste to toxic chemicals, many components can impact the quality of bodies of water. This liquid is extremely vulnerable to pollution because of its status as a universal solvent. It’s capable of dissolving more substances than any other kind of liquid on Earth, so what goes into our water supply matters.
According to the World Health Organization, more than 2 billion people worldwide live in water-stressed countries. Finding methods to control water contamination is essential to reduce pollution and make our waterways safer for people and the environment.
Major Causes of Water Pollution
The following are some primary causes of water pollution:
- Rising global temperatures: Excess carbon dioxide emissions are causing the Earth to grow warmer. The rising temperatures cause a reduction in water’s oxygen content, leading to poorer water quality.
- Sewer and waste dumping: About 80% of global wastewater goes untreated. This means human waste that contains nitrogen and phosphorous can pollute water sources.
- Agriculture: The agriculture industry uses dangerous chemicals to treat crops that can infiltrate and contaminate local water systems.
- Oil spills and fuel leaks: Marine life is susceptible to the damaging effects of oil and fuel spills in the ocean. These fuels are toxic to sea creatures and their ecosystems.
- Factories: Industrial factories are especially responsible for discharging harmful chemicals into waterways, causing dangerous pollution.
Types of Water Pollution
Explore the various types of water pollution and their impacts on people and the environment.
Groundwater refers to underground water sources that are contaminated by:
Rainwater causes these chemicals to seep deep into the soil and enter underground waterbeds. The greatest dangers of groundwater include contaminating drinking water that humans source from wells and boreholes. Groundwater pollution is a major problem because half of the American population depends on groundwater for their domestic uses.
2. Surface Water
Surface water refers to the bodies of water above ground, including:
Surface water pollution occurs when contaminants leak or are dumped into these waterways. Untreated human waste is one example of this type of water pollution. Organic waste and heavy metals can also cause contamination, contributing to pathogens that lead to waterborne diseases and irregular turbidity.
Chemicals are one of the most common causes of water pollution. These substances can leak into the water from various industry practices and improper waste management.
The agriculture industry is one of the primary contributors to chemical water pollution because of the vast range of weed- and insect-killing solutions farmers utilize for farming efforts. These chemicals can wash away and travel to water sources via rainwater and groundwater.
Another kind of water pollution is microbiological water pollution. This type is often naturally occurring and can make waterways dangerous for both wildlife and any humans who drink from this source.
Microorganisms such as the following can cause serious illnesses and impact the overall well-being of those around the water:
Water treatment is necessary for ridding the water of these dangerous organisms.
If excess nutrients are introduced to a body of water, it can be detrimental to the delicate balance of the water’s existing ecosystem. Fertilizers from farming practices are often to blame for this type of pollution. They contain a high concentration of nutrients that can cause dangerous algal blooms. Algae can grow at rapid speed, inhibiting the sunlight needed by other underwater organisms.
Biodegradable matter in water can cause microorganism growth that leads to oxygen-depletion pollution. Many aquatic species of plants and animals depend on oxygen for survival purposes.
Excessive algal growth causes oxygen-depletion pollution because the blooms consume the waterway’s oxygen supply. Without adequate oxygen levels, anaerobic microorganisms can flourish and potentially produce harmful toxins, including ammonia and sulfides.
7. Oil Spillage
Oil spills can be a detrimental type of water pollution. The oil can travel through a waterway for miles, negatively impacting wildlife and ecosystems along the way. For example, it can cause fish to suffocate and may block necessary sunlight underwater needed for photosynthesis purposes. In addition to harming marine life, the oil can severely contaminate the surrounding sediment and shorelines.
8. Suspended Matter
Suspended matter is another type of water pollution. It refers to matter that doesn’t dissolve in the water, including:
- Plastic particles
- Decaying organic matter
- Biological solids
These substances are called particulate matter, and they can majorly harm marine wildlife when ingested. Suspended matter can also negatively impact water’s turbidity, impacting the sunlight’s ability to reach underwater plants and organisms.
Effects of Water Pollution
The following are some of the most prominent outcomes of water pollution:
1. Health Hazards
Water pollution can negatively affect human health. Whether people are consuming contaminated water or using it for other applications, there are many ways it can be hazardous.
When a worker comes in contact with contaminated water, they risk the transfer of waterborne illnesses, such as the following:
- Cercarial dermatitis: Also called swimmer’s itch, cercarial dermatitis occurs when a person experiences an allergic reaction to certain parasites in water. The severity and level of discomfort will depend on the individual’s response and how much contaminated water they have come in contact with.
- Pseudomonas aeruginosa infection: Exposure to water with a bacteria called Pseudomonas in it can cause serious skin infections. Workers can transfer these germs from one person to another through contact with contaminated hands and surfaces.
- Legionnaires’ disease: Breathing in water droplets contaminated with a bacteria called Legionella can cause various other illnesses, including Legionnaires’ disease and Pontiac fever. Common symptoms include shortness of breath and body aches.
2. Biodiversity Loss
One of the most devastating impacts of water pollution is biodiversity loss. When waterways endure contamination, the microorganisms change and distort the ecosystem. As a result, native animals and plants may not have the necessary means to sustain life.
An overabundance of nutrients can cause eutrophication, which depletes the water of its oxygen supply, creating dead zones where fish and other aquatic life can no longer survive. The presence of other contaminants can directly kill wildlife, as well. Oil, plastics and toxic chemicals can all threaten marine life and their food sources.
Biodiversity loss due to water pollution can lead to a plethora of additional issues.
3. Aquatic Habitat Changes
Aquatic ecosystems are comprised of a very fragile network of different living things, including:
These all support one another to survive. When water pollution is present and impacts one of these aspects of the ecosystem, they’re all affected.
When contaminants alter a native habitat, it can be detrimental to those reliant on its resources. A change in nutrients or turbidity can create a domino effect of harm throughout the ecosystem, throwing off important balance and ultimately killing wildlife and disrupting the food chain.
4. Economic Loss
Water pollution can have major economic impacts on communities and businesses. The following are some of the monetary losses associated with contaminated water:
- Fines: Businesses that involve water treatment are responsible for the water they discharge. If they fail to monitor their systems closely and release contaminated water to the public, they could face hefty fines.
- Drinking water: The costs of treating drinking water will increase depending on the presence of pollutants. To ensure those consuming the water don’t get sick, facilities need to carefully process the water and remove contaminants.
- Liability: In addition to the consequences of violating the Clean Water Act, an organization could be held financially responsible for any harm or danger caused by the discharging of contaminated water from their facility.
Other Ways to Prevent Water Pollution
Check out these ways to protect local waterways and minimize unwanted pollutants at your business:
- Limit your water use: There are many ways to cut down on your company’s water use. Consider doing things like watering your property in the early morning or evening to keep evaporation minimal. You can also install low-flow toilets in your employee bathrooms.
- Avoid harsh chemicals: You can minimize water pollution by avoiding pesticides, herbicides, and fertilizers to treat your business’s landscaping. Rainwater and groundwater can carry these chemicals to local waterways and cause contamination.
- Dispose of chemicals properly: From cleaning agents to disinfectants, be sure to have your janitorial staff explore the best way to throw these items out without flushing them down your toilets or drains.
- Support environment advocates and charities: Another way you can prevent water pollution is by donating to and supporting organizations dedicated to water quality and safety. These groups may work on water clean-up efforts or promote legislation to protect waterways. Research options to find a few that resonate with your business’s mission.
- Turn to a professional: Your company can contact an expert to inspect potential sources of pollution at your specific facility and teach your team best practices for keeping toxins out of local waterways.
- Evaluate your chemicals: Look at the chemicals and toxins your business utilizes on a regular basis. Could you swap these out for something more environmentally-friendly and less likely to contribute to water pollution? If the answer is yes, take action to protect your community.
- Upgrade your facility: Consider making changes to your buildings and operations to reduce water pollution. Your business can take advantage of equipment and systems that are more efficient and less wasteful. No matter your budget, you can tune up your processes in many ways.
- Incorporate new drain solutions: Whether your company chooses to plant more trees or build a shallow trench to catch and divert stormwater, you can make many changes to improve your drain solutions and reduce contaminated runoff from your facility.
- Move dumpsters and trash collection sites: Your business can also prevent water pollution by keeping your trash away from any storm drains or nearby waterways. Check your receptacles for leaks and patch what you can to minimize dirty rainwater from passing through.
Doing these things will help support efforts to minimize water pollution and create safer resources for our communities and wildlife.
Examples of Water Pollution Control Equipment
Explore some of the most effective water pollution control equipment options and their benefits.
1. Ammonia Strippers
An ammonia stripper can assist with the treatment of wastewater and groundwater.
The stripping tower forces air through the contaminated water supply, ultimately evaporating the harmful pollutants and gases. The steam travels through the packing while the bottom fan pushes clean air upward. Steam effectively aids in the evaporation process until all the decontaminated water collects at the bottom. Stripping towers use a specific temperature and pH level to remove the presence of ammonia from the water supply during this process.
One of the key advantages of ammonia strippers is how efficiently they can remove contaminants. This equipment is also highly cost-effective and can boost your operation’s profitability. MACH Engineering has the tower packing materials to assist with your ammonia stripper systems.
2. Tower Packing
Tower packing products can support a vast range of industrial processes, especially water pollution treatment. The following random packing media from MACH Engineering can assist with water treatment applications:
- Tri-Packs®: With their spherical shape, Tri-Packs® have a high active surface area and support high mass transfer rates with almost no settling.
- Pall rings: Plastic Pall rings aid with applications involving the separation of liquids and gases. They’re available in different materials to support varying temperatures. A few advantages of these rings are their high levels of separation efficiency and excellent strength.
- Hiflow® rings: The cylindrical shape of these rings allows flow-through while offering high mechanical stability. Some of the greatest benefits of Hiflow® rings are their high void fraction and low weight.
We have an extensive selection of random packing products to choose from so you can find the right items for your specific applications and goals. You can potentially boost your business’s efficiency and profitability with the right equipment.
Contact Us for Water Pollution Control Equipment
At MACH Engineering, we design and manufacture innovative and energy-friendly products. Our high-quality engineering design equipment and services are here to help your business tackle water pollution control.
Our products include air strippers and various packing media products to uplift your organization’s processes and make them more efficient. We also offer supervision to ensure the proper installation of new tower internals, so your company can benefit from safe and reliable systems.
Are you interested in learning more about our wastewater treatment products? Contact MACH Engineering today!