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Water Pollution Caused by Industrial Waste: Impact, Solutions, & More

Since the Industrial Revolution, humans have found ways to unintentionally or intentionally harm the natural order. Factories discharge harmful industrial elements that affect groundwater and other water bodies the most. These elements include petroleum products, hazardous waste, heavy metals, sediments, and forever chemicals.

One of the most significant sources of water contamination is the discharge of toxic liquids and other harmful waste products into open sewers. These sewers eventually get into larger water bodies connected to drinking water systems. 

Factory leaks, explosions, and improper waste management can also cause water pollution. For example, the 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil spill caused thousands of mammals, birds, fish, and sea turtles to develop health hazards. 

This incident occurred due to an explosion at BP’s Deep Water Horizon drilling rig, claiming 11 human lives. After that incident, an image of an oil-soaked pelican shook the world. It represented the extent of this environmental disaster resulting from human carelessness. 

In this blog, we will discuss the impact of industrial waste, understand a case study, and mention some technological solutions. 

The Impact of Industrial Waste on Human and Aquatic Life

The residual pollution that seeps into public waterways can cause serious harm to drinking water quality. Most of these substances are hazardous and non-biodegradable. Due to this toxic sediment, biodiversity suffers, becomes ill, and eventually dies. 

For instance, 45% of the nation’s tap water contains forever chemicals like per-and-poly-fluoroalkyl substances (PFAS). These elements are synthetic and impossible to break down. That means PFAS can stay in the environment for an indefinite time frame. When consumed, these can lead to immunity imbalances, cancer, increased blood pressure, kidney failure, etc.

Apart from humans, industrial waste also affects aquatic life when it seeps into larger water bodies. Most synthetic chemicals are found in high concentrations in marine plants and animals. 

For example, thermal pollution caused by the discharge of hot and cold water from power plants disrupts the water temperature. This fluctuation threatens marine organisms and brings changes to their reproductive patterns. Similarly, the discharge of pesticides into marine ecosystems can cause harmful diseases and change their biochemistry. 

Industrial waste can also increase the water’s murkiness. If that happens, the plants don’t get enough sunlight for photosynthesis, and fish develop blocked gills. 

The Camp Lejeune Water Crisis: A Case Study

The Camp Lejeune incident comes to light when Americans discuss water contamination caused by industrial waste. 

This military camp, located in North Carolina, houses over 170,000 people and has a revenue of USD 3 billion. It’s a well-respected base known for its tactical landing zones, gun positions, training facilities, etc. 

However, the camp’s image was tainted in the late 1980s. Researchers found high levels of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) caused by off-base industrial waste and on-base leaks in the drinking water. 

They stated that between 1953 and 1987, toxic substances seeped into wells like Hatnot Point and Tarawa Terrace from an off-base dry cleaning company. These included dry cleaning solvents, degreasers, and other hazardous chemicals. The two water treatment plants were contaminated with industrial solvents like perchloroethylene and trichloroethylene.

Reports suggest that the camp officials knew about some unidentified pollutants, but they didn’t do anything. As a result, over 1 million people living on the base during that time were exposed to toxic contaminants. 

The Consequences

These individuals developed chronic health issues like cancer, Lou Gehrig’s disease, non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, etc. They soon learned about the government’s carelessness, inadequate planning, and industrial negligence. 

For over 30 years, Camp Lejeune residents were exposed to toxic substances, and now they wanted justice. That’s why veterans, civilians, and workers filed a Camp Lejeune water contamination lawsuit. This lawsuit holds the American government responsible for the injuries caused by illegal toxic waste disposal. 

Currently, over 60,000 Camp Lejeune litigations have been filed under personal injury and wrongful death lawsuits. According to TorHoerman Law, plaintiffs can receive settlement amounts between USD 10,000 and USD 1,000,000, depending on the strength of their case.

The Lessons

The government shut down the water wells and stopped industrial waste disposal near the camp to reduce contamination. Moreover, there are yearly water quality checks and reports to ensure transparency. 

But what does this incident teach us? Well, the Camp Lejeune incident highlights an innate need for the federal government to: 

The Role of Technology in Reducing Water Pollution

Industry leaders believe that there’s a need for more stringent policies to reduce water pollution caused by industrial waste. They state that using outdated technology can lead to waterway contamination with harmful chemicals. 

Therefore, the government is leaning towards strict legislation for pollution control laws. For that, the country needs affordable and effective equipment. Some examples include the following: 

  1. Industries can use blockchain technology for transparent water resource management to access uniform water quantity and quality data.
  2. Water treatment technologies like froth flotation, coagulation, membrane processes, osmosis, or adsorption can remove industrial water waste. 
  3. They can use processes of solid waste removal from waterways through ion exchange systems, sedimentation, or bioremediation
  4. Industries can use auditing technology to update management procedures and improve hazardous waste disposal to reduce pollution.
  5. Waste management technologies like recycling robots, pneumatic waste pipes, dry machining, and green chemistry will help reduce waste production.

Furthermore, industries can use chemical and biological treatments to purify water. These technologies will also help them make informed decisions. Even then, there is a need for cooperation among various industries for the successful implementation of such equipment ideas. 

The Bottom Line

Water pollution is truly the biggest issue arising from industrialization. Industrial waste affects the entire ecosystem, leading to harmful side effects. The worst part is that this contaminated water gets supplied countrywide.

Statistics suggest that the tap water supplied to over 26 million Americans contains toxic forever chemicals. Due to this, approximately 1/3 of citizens don’t drink tap water. 

Of course, the Camp Lejeune water crisis is an enormous reminder for the government to change the water treatment methods. Today, only technology can help monitor, reduce, and regulate water pollution caused by industrial waste. 

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