Thursday, March 12, 2009

Is This the United States of America, or Is This the Contamination Nation?

In the 1960s Lake Erie got extremely polluted with phosphates, leaving many fish to die and rot, meaning this once admired beach was turned into a wasteland. Phosphate ions come from point and non-point sources. Point sources are particular locations like towns, cities, and factories that each, produce much pollutant waste. Non-point sources are places such as farms, home septic tanks, housing developments, and golf courses that each, produce less waste. Although, non-point sources actually can produce more waste than point sources, because there are many non-point locations that can combine to create much waste, such as how many farms do. Too much phosphate in freshwater lakes and rivers can cause environmental issues. The extra phosphate in the water, which is not supposed to be there, helps much more algae grow to the point of an algae bloom, meaning a lot of oxygen is taken in by the algae as it decomposes, and then much fish die. To help clean the Great Lakes of these nasty phosphates, 8 billion dollars has been spent in creating sewage treatment plants that remove phosphate before it goes into the lakes. Ontario and other states around the Great Lakes were restricted in the amount of phosphate that could be put in detergents, which has led to a decrease in two thirds of the amount of the total phosphate going into the lakes. Now Lake Erie has fish life back in it, meaning commercial fisheries are gaining business, and the public is visiting it once again.

There were no difficult terms in this article.

I knew a little bit about this topic area since I have taken Environmental Studies classes, but I actually do not remember learning about the poor shape Lake Erie used to be in. The pictures in the book were so surprising! Someone is showing their hand covered in green much from the water before, because of the algae blooms. It looks as if they put their hand in a can of green paint! This article explains why sometimes I see “no phosphates” written on the back of laundry detergents. This article really makes me open my eyes to the amount of sources where pollutants come from, and the fact that they cannot all be controlled. It is interesting although, how these non-point sources can be indirectly controlled to reduce the amount of phosphates by not putting phosphates in laundry detergents, and point sources can be built to remove phosphates before they get into these freshwater lakes. Although, this article really makes you wonder if, how do we know that there are not many other pollutants that are put into these rivers? Much phosphate was put into these lakes, but we only figured this out because of all the algae blooms, so what about other pollutants that are put into the lakes that do not have effects like phosphate that can be seen with the naked eye. How do we know that these lakes are safe to swim in, even thought they are clear?

This article reveals that we as people can make big differences in our environment with whatever chemicals we use. Even though Clorox Bleach may seem convincing on T.V., because the people in the T.V. commercials list all of the diseases/germs that Clorox can protect you from, but is it really worth it to buy this Clorox that will leach nasty chemicals into our groundwater? Also, even if an item says that it does not have phosphate in it, it does not automatically mean that it is safe to use. Although, just because I know this, does not mean that everyone else will, so how are consumers going to know? Well, it would have to mean that more environmentally friendly products would need to be advertised, but I highly doubt that will happen anytime soon. This is really what would help stop pollutants from going into our groundwater and into freshwater areas. If advertisements were put on T.V., telling people to buy organic groceries, because non-organic ones have so many chemicals in them, then at least that would be the start of the change of the agricultural industry.

Baird, Colin. “Phosphates From Point and Non-point Sources.” Chemistry in Your Life. Second Edition. W. H. Freeman and Company. New York. 2006. Pg. 509.

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