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Notes on Water Pollution


Water Pollution: Obtaining and using certain energy resources -- fossil fuels and nuclear energy can pollute the water.


·        Acid Rain (from factory emissions) makes Earth’s waters more acidic and kills many living organisms and plants in the water.


·        Strip mining washes chemicals and acids into our water supply, and groundwater.


·        Obtaining oil and petroleum is the major source of water pollution.  We get most of our oil from off-shore drilling.

o       Leaks from off-shore wells cause pollution

o       Drilling accidents cause pollution.

o       Oil spills from transporting the oil to consumers cause pollution

§        Torrey Canyon – 1967 (England/France)– The first major oil spill- 700,000 barrels of oil

§        Amoco Cadiz – 1978

§        Exxon Valdez – 1989 (Alaska)

o       Ocean Flushing: More water pollution is caused by tankers deliberately flushing waste oil into the ocean


o       Oil Spill Clean-up Methods:

§        Booms- A boom floats at the top of the water and stops the oil from spreading to other locations

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§        Skimmers- vacuums up the oil

§        Pads/sponges- soaks up the oil

§        Fire – light the oil on fire until it is all burned up

§        Chemicals (Surfactants) – Chemicals that break the oil apart and help it dissolve

§        Chemicals (sheet) – Chemicals that make the oil form one single sheet that can easily be removed

§        Bacteria – These microorganisms eat the oil

§        Hot spray – This help dissolve the oil

§        Hair – Animal hair can be used to soak up the oil



·        Pollution from Nuclear Power – Water needed to cool power plants is discharged back into the lakes/rivers that it came from.  This results in thermal pollution (a huge increase in temperature) – It kills marine animals and plants (cooks them!)


·        Hazardous Wastes: Industry dumping toxic materials into landfills cause dangerous chemicals to seep into our groundwater.

o       Illegal Dumping:  some manufacturers directly dump these materials into lakes and rivers (illegal today).

o       Cuyahoga River (Cleveland, Ohio) became so polluted that is went on fire.

o       Love Canal: A canal located near Niagara Falls that was contaminated with hazardous wastes.


·       Sewage and Agricultural Runoff

o       Sewage is waste materials carried away by sewers and drains (from toilets)

o       Sewage is sometimes dumped directly into rivers and streams.

o       Sewage contains disease-causing bacteria – kills marine life and is unsuitable for drinking or eating marine animals.

o       Agricultural Runoff is materials such as fertilizers, pesticides and animal wastes from farms are washed into nearby waters and groundwater.

o       An algae explosion can result when fertilizers are washed into water supplies – Fertilizers help plants grow, it also stimulates the water plants (algae) to grow so much that it blocks out the sun and kills all the marine life below from lack of oxygen.