3 Dangerous Reasons Water Gets Polluted in America – Lessons Learned

water pollution

Safe water is a cardinal right for every American, irrespective of whether they use it for drinking, industrial purposes, or agricultural production. But sometimes harmful chemicals or microorganisms seep into water supplies. It can occur due to corporate misconduct and improper water conservation methods.

When that happens, the water quality deteriorates and exposes citizens to potential toxins. Drinking, bathing in, and using polluted water can lead them to develop cancer, skin diseases, diarrhea, etc. Ideally, there are a few dangerous yet unpredictable ways water systems get contaminated.

In this blog, we will discuss three serious contamination issues that have plagued American water bodies for many years.

Oil Leakage or Spills

Scientifically, water and oil don’t mix or dissolve. That’s why accidental oil spills on water bodies leave behind heavy concentrations, leading to contaminated beaches and dead marine wildlife. For example, the layer of oil on the water can block light, get caught in the feathers of a bird, and suffocate fish. It can also significantly affect the seafood economy in the surrounding cities.

In 2010, the people living near the Gulf of Mexico witnessed this firsthand. An oil drilling rig called Deepwater Horizon had exploded, spilling close to four million barrels of oil into the ocean. During this explosion, 11 workers unfortunately lost their lives, and the damaged oil well kept leaking for over 87 days.

As a result of this exposure, humans and animals developed health issues like organ damage, reproductive failure, cancer, etc. Approximately 82,000 birds, 25,900 marine mammals, and 6,165 sea turtles were harmed and killed due to this oil spill. Similarly, 33,000 people joined forces to clean up the Gulf of Mexico coastline. But by 2023, this exposure had led thousands of these workers to develop chronic health issues, diarrhea, skin rashes, etc.

Due to the extent of this oil spill, the responsible company had to pay USD 14.3 billion for violating the Clean Water Act and damaging natural resources. The Deepwater Horizon oil spill proves how dangerous oil leakage can be to the ecosystem.

Moreover, big corporations learned the importance of using high-quality products to ensure rig safety. The government also understood the need for robust disaster training and quick rescue or clean-up responses.

Use of Toxic Chemicals in Agriculture

Farmers across America use chemical pesticides, fertilizers, or herbicides to protect crops and keep them healthy. However, these products contain high levels of life-threatening toxins. Examples include arsenic, lead, cadmium, etc.

Usually, when it rains, these toxic compounds flow into rivers or lakes, leading to water pollution. The chemicals present in these synthetic products can also seep into the groundwater. As a result, it harms animals, plants, and humans in the surrounding areas.

In 1962, a herbicide called paraquat claimed to revolutionize farming by minimizing soil disturbance. The manufacturers marketed this chemical product as the only way to keep the soil intact and use ‘no-till’ farming. Paraquat distributors promised farmers they didn’t need to plow because this product would eliminate weed growth and prepare the land.

However, in 1983, a journalist named Andrew Revkin warned how this herbicide was killing people. He detailed the paraquat’s link to suicides, Parkinson’s disease, and accidental deaths. Similarly, when this chemical reached the water bodies, aquatic organisms became vulnerable and developed diseases. Revkin also mentioned that this poisonous herbicide could mix easily with water and food.

If ingested or inhaled, this chemical herbicide can lead humans to develop serious health risks. Therefore, 3,000+ farmers filed a lawsuit against the manufacturers and distributors after being exposed to paraquat-contaminated food and water. Based on the medical evidence, these plaintiffs might be eligible for payouts between USD 100,000 and USD 500,000.

This incident highlights the need for shifting to environmentally friendly and organic herbicides, pesticides, and fertilizers. Moreover, the responsible parties should figure out ways to reduce water runoff and warn farmers about the side effects of chemical products.

Toxic Waste Disposal 

Some corporations on industrial sites use illegal waste disposal methods without considering any repercussions. These companies dispose of chemical waste in the water or on abandoned land. However, they don’t think of the effects of these toxins on the surrounding areas. Yes, improper waste management practices can easily pollute drinking water supplies and freshwater systems.

The Camp Lejeune incident is a sad example of illegal toxic waste disposal. Located in North Carolina, the residents of this marine base were victims of an off-base dry cleaning company’s disposal methods. Between 1953 and 1987, this company disposed of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) like dry cleaning solvents and degreasers near the camp. As a result, the toxins seeped into the groundwater supply and made their way into two water treatment plants.

For over thirty years, 1 million residents were exposed to harsh chemicals. According to TorHoerman Law, the toxic chemicals found were tetrachloroethylene, trichloroethylene, benzene, and vinyl chloride. That’s why veterans, civilians, and workers developed lung cancer, cervical cancer, ALS, non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, leukemia, etc.

However, it wasn’t until the 2022 Camp Lejeune Justice Act (CLJA) was enacted that these affected individuals could file lawsuits against the responsible parties. Based on the CLJA, anyone living in Camp Lejeune between August 1953 and December 1987 for at least thirty days is eligible for compensation.

Plaintiffs can receive payouts ranging between USD 10,000 and USD 500,000. However, the exact financial compensation from this ongoing lawsuit will depend on the extent of the injury and the proof provided.

The Camp Lejeune incident taught the government the need for regular testing at water sources to determine contamination. It also highlights the need for proper waste disposal of chemical compounds, especially near public water sources. Moreover, this crisis highlights the need for transparent communication between citizens and the government and prompt responses to water contamination.

In conclusion, water pollution can affect health, the environment, and the economy. According to The Hill, approximately half of the American water supplies are too polluted for swimming, fishing, and drinking.

Unfortunately, cleaning up a contaminated water body and removing pollutants is difficult, time-consuming, and rare. That’s why the government needs to ensure cases like Camp Lejeune water contamination, the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, and paraquat water runoff don’t happen again.


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