The quality of the water supply can affect everything from our gardens to our clothes. It is estimated that millions of Americans use water from rivers, lakes, and streams to help them get through the dry season or to cook their food. But what about the quality of our drinking water?
Contaminated industrial waste
Many wastewater “backups” come from places where industrial waste is stored, such as landfills or sewage treatment plants. Industrial waste is contaminated with a host of different contaminants including solids and chemicals such as motor oil, coolants, lubricants, and polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), organic chemicals such as yeast, pesticides, herbicides, leaded gasoline, and other contaminants from heavy industries. One problem with the contamination of our groundwater is that, unlike our ocean-based water supplies which are naturally cleaned up by living creatures like coral reefs, most groundwater systems are abandoned and deteriorate over time. As a result, we are exposed to potentially harmful contaminants in our drinking water.
Radioactive waste materials cause water pollution all over the world. Some radioactive material is harmless. Another radioactive waste is in fact “probable” human carcinogens, according to the Environmental Protection Agency’s Health, Safety, and Protective Services Branch. There are several different types of radioactive material that may be present in our water supplies, including radon, selenium, and gamma-rays. The levels of exposure to this radiation that may be involved in causing cancer vary greatly; therefore the risk to humans varies accordingly.
Industrial wastes such as oil, grease, rubber, and other manufacturing chemicals frequently flow into our streams, lakes, and rivers. In fact, they often go unnoticed until a certain condition becomes severe enough to cause an odor or taste. Fish and vegetation are prime targets for this kind of waste. When it rains or melts, the resulting run-off can pollute both natural and artificial streams and rivers. This type of pollution is usually a major problem and results in detrimental effects on wildlife, plants, and humans.
Animal waste, also known as feces, is another contributor to water pollution. Like industrial waste, animal waste can contaminate natural sources such as springs and rivers and may harm aquatic ecosystems and aquatic habitats. Streams, and lakes used for bathing and drinking water, as well as reservoirs used for storing and treatment of treated water, may contain excessive amounts of animal waste. In some cases, animal waste can build up in water quality systems, and when this happens, it results in problems with water quality such as excessive chlorine and fluoride in the supply, reduced oxygen concentration, color and taste variations, and the presence of harmful bacteria and other harmful microorganisms.
Lack of clean drinking water
There are a number of ways that contaminated water supply systems can affect humans and the environment. A lack of clean drinking water or contaminated water supplies can lead to diarrhea and other water-related illnesses. The presence of bacteria and other harmful organisms in the drinking water may trigger skin irritations and other diseases. People who bathe in polluted water may suffer from skin irritations as well. Lastly, industrial sites with improperly installed septic tanks and waste-water water systems can create contaminated runoff that affects the local water quality.