Download a printer friendly version of this article here.
The greatest and most precious resource to be found on planet earth is the abundance of water. Water which is the building block of all cells, and without which there would be no life. Yet, as mankind has advanced we have been willfully blind to the effects that our actions are having on water. Everyone knows the dangers of radiation; so imagine if our water supplies were to become irradiated. We use storage tanks to hold dangerous liquids and gases underground to ensure they do not impact our lives. Imagine if those tanks were to, not even break, but simply leak while remembering that just over 30% of fresh water is ground water.[i] Finally, think of the effects that acid rain has on buildings of stone that have stood for centuries. Then, think of the effects that that same acid rain is having on marine ecosystems around the world.
Radioactive wastes. Two very simple words that should instill one with a sense of worry. Radioactive wastes is defined by The Macmillan Dictionary as “The harmful waste that is produced while making nuclear energy.”[ii] Everything that poses a danger to humanity on the scale that radiation does should be regulated, and in the United States radioactive waste is regulated by the Office of Nuclear Material Safety and Safeguards.[iii] The problem is that government regulations allow radioactive water to be released from power plants to the environment containing “permissible” levels of contamination. However, since there is no safe threshold to exposure to radiation, permissible does not mean safe.”[iv] According to River Keeper the Indian Point plant releases over 100 different types of isotopes, and in February 2000 an accident at the plant discharged 20,000 gallons of radioactive coolant. That is bad enough, but the same month 200 gallons of irradiated water were released into the Hudson River[v], Water, which is our most vital resource, is being exposed to radiation which has the potential to permanently degrade any cells that it comes into contact with. The majority of radioactive waste water pollution originates from the European continent, and traces of that radiation have been found in waters over 2000 miles away from the European coasts.[vi] That says the majority, not all. Remember Fukushima? That was a nuclear power plant in Japan that had a meltdown a back in 2011. Currently, a couple of years after the disaster, radiation from Fukushima is being detected in the waters of the West Coast of the U.S.A.[vii] Radiation is one of the greatest dangers to mankind in existence, and we are allowing our waters to become poisoned by it.
Atmospheric deposition, which is more commonly known as acid rain, is a danger to both land and sea. Acid rain is created when certain chemicals, such as sulfur and nitrogen, mix with rain clouds. Acid rain then falls upon both the land and the sea. On land, it can cause damage to the environment, buildings, plant and animal life, and man. In the seas it can kill off marine life, and raises the acidity of the water.[viii] The main cause of these chemicals entering the atmosphere and mixing with rain clouds is industry. As the acidity of oceans rises this can lead to many damaging effects. The most obvious of these effects is the death of marine and plant life which cannot survive in acidic waters, but it also has the potential to lower the level of nutrients in the water. Over time this will cause even more marine life deaths.[ix] Acid rain’s effects on land are equally severe. It can erode manmade structures, kill plant and animal life, and cause damage to humans as well.[x] Just from the name, acid rain, you know it is not a good thing. Atmospheric deposition has sources both natural and manmade. Its natural sources are volcanoes and decaying vegetation. Its manmade sources are mainly emissions of sulfur dioxide, and nitrogen oxide.[xi] As it results naturally in nature it is difficult to combat acid rain. However, as man has contributed to the frequency and intensity of acid rain, we have an imperative to minimize the damage that is caused to our land and waters.
Underground storage tanks are found in every community in the United States[xii]. They are used to store dangerous and toxic chemicals and gases. Sadly, out of sight out of mind doesn’t mean they’re gone. Storage tanks that were constructed before the year 1980 were made of steel.[xiii] Steel, which is a metal that if exposed to the elements will rust. Since 1989 in the state of Indiana over 4300 underground storage tanks have leaked.[xiv] That is just one state in one country. Leaking tanks have the potential to contaminate not just the soil around them, but above ground drinking water sources, below ground drinking water sources, recreational water bodies, and they can also have an impact on property values.[xv] Responsibility is not something that can be ignored. As these tanks are manmade structures, then mankind is responsible for the damage that is caused by them. While it is true that the sins of earlier generation should not be visited upon the living…they are. It is time for us to take responsibility and find a way to resolve the problems that have arisen with these leaking tanks.
It is said that progress cannot be stopped, and it is true that mankind has progressed greatly throughout the centuries. While progress cannot be stopped, still the problems that arise from progress’ continuing march must be met. Acid rain, nuclear waste, and underground storage tanks are all either fully manmade, or greatly exacerbated by man. This being the case, it is up to mankind as a whole to find a way to deal with the difficulties that arise from them. No one wishes to live in a dying wasteland, but if we do not work together to protect our most valuable resources, namely water and the environment, then we will find ourselves living in a world that none of us will enjoy.
About the Author
Dominick Principe is a graduate of Rowan University with dual Bachelor Degrees in Elementary Education and Writing Arts. He is a prolific reader who devours any book put before him, and feels that life is one great long book without an end. He fills his hours constantly exploring new information, and seeking to educate himself in the ways of the world. He puts all of that knowledge and his passion for learning to good use teaching English as a second language to students of all ages. When his nose isn’t buried in a book, or in class teaching, then he can generally be found typing away at his computer working on some random piece of writing that he was inspired to do.
[i] “Ground Water Discharge-The Water Cycle.” USGS. United States Geological Survey. Web. 3 Nov. 2014.
[ii] “Radioactive Waste.” – Definition. American English Definition of with Pronunciation by Macmillan Dictionary. Macmillan Dictionary. Web. 10 Nov. 2014. <http://www.macmillandictionary.com/us/dictionary/american/radioactive-waste>.
[iv] “Radioactive Waste and Pollution.” Riverkeeper RSS. River Keeper. Web. 3 Nov. 2014. <http://www.riverkeeper.org/campaigns/stop-polluters/indian-point/radioactive-waste/>.
[v] “Radioactive Waste and Pollution.” Riverkeeper RSS. River Keeper. Web. 3 Nov. 2014. <http://www.riverkeeper.org/campaigns/stop-polluters/indian-point/radioactive-waste/>.
[vi] “Nuclear Waste – How It Is Produced « Water Pollution Guide.” Nuclear Waste – How It Is Produced « Water Pollution Guide. Web. 3 Nov. 2014. <http://www.water-pollution.org.uk/nuclearwaste.html>.
[vii] Loew, Tracy. “Scientists: Test West Coast for Fukushima Radiation.” Usatoday.com/. USA Today, 9 Mar. 2014. Web. 12 Nov. 2014. <http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2014/03/09/scientists-test-west-coast-for-fukushima-radiation/6213849/>.
[viii] “The Oceans Feel Impacts from Acid Rain.” Oceanus Magazine. Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, 1 Apr. 2008. Web. 30 Oct. 2014. <http://www.whoi.edu/oceanus/feature/the-oceans-feel-impacts-from-acid-rain>.
[ix] “Environmental Effects of Acid Rain.” EPA. Environmental Protection Agency. Web. 3 Nov. 2014. <http://www.epa.gov/region1/eco/acidrain/enveffects.html>.
[x] “Your Cool Facts and Tips on Air Pollution.” ESchoolToday. Web. 29 Oct. 2014. <http://eschooltoday.com/pollution/air-pollution/effects-of-air-pollution.html>.
[xii] “Protecting The Nation’s Drinking Water From Leaking Underground Storage Tanks.”EPA.gov. Environmental Protection Agency. Web. 3 Nov. 2014. <Protecting The Nation’s Drinking Water From Leaking Underground Storage Tanks>.
[xiii] “Underground Storage Leakages « Water Pollution Guide.” Underground Storage Leakages « Water Pollution Guide. The Guides Network. Web. 3 Nov. 2014. <http://www.water-pollution.org.uk/undergroundstorage.html>.