Monday, April 29, 2013

​The Facts: Answers to the Quiz

Q: How much waste water do you make in a day?
A: ~50 Gallons

​ An average American household can produce anywhere between 50-75 gallons of waste water per day, per person. This wastewater is coming from toilets, sinks, showers, and dishwashers.

Q: Where does waste water go?
A: Underground

​ Waste water in urban areas does end up underground after it leaves your house, but it travels through sewage pipes to your local water treatment facility. There it is processed in various ways to cleanse the water of biological and chemical waste.  

Q: What is the main source of Waste water in the U.S.?
A: Both Agricultural and Industrial

​ They both produce large quantities of waste water but in different ways. Industrial sources tend to be point sources that can be easy to pinpoint but often chemically hard to clean. Whereas agricultural sources are non-point sources, diffuse over a large area, which makes them hard to control. Industrial sources come from many different industries such as chemical, pharmaceutical, mining, oil, and metal. The wide variance of the sources and the often hazardous nature of chemicals used leads to much difficulty in dealing with these sources.  Agricultural waste water comes largely from the runoff of irrigation of farms; this water often contains fertilizers and pesticides that contaminate the water. Due to the generally wide area covered by agricultural practices collecting and controlling this water becomes a serious issue.

Q: What are environmentally friendly ways to clean waste water?
A: Constructed wetlands; a Mesocosm

​ Constructed Wetlands and Mesocosms are in essence similar practices. Constructed Wetlands are artificial or restored wetland areas for both the purpose of native and migratory wildlife to re-inhabit, and to deal with waste water discharge from certain areas. The natural environment can often deal with septic and storm waste water through ecological means, such as plant uptake and soil drainage. This method of treatment is not only beneficial to treating waste water, but is often aesthetically pleasing and environmentally preferred.
A Mesocosm is a way of treating waste water in a facility using a series of controlled living organisms that each in succession deals with different aspects of the waste. Mesocosms in essence function similarly to a constructed wetland except it is more controlled and can harness, without worry for ecological disaster, non-native species who might better deal with certain impurities. These are sometimes called “living machines” and can be as effective as conventional systems for sewage and storm runoff wastes.

Q: How does waste water affect the environment?
A: Eutrophication, Heavy metal accumulation, water turbidity

​ Waste water can affect the environment in a number of very destructive and harmful ways. Eutrophication is the buildup of nutrients in an aquatic ecosystem that can lead to unfavorable ecological responses. One such example is algae blooms that happen and can cause depletion of oxygen in the water and can seriously damage other wildlife populations.
​ Heavy metal accumulation is just as its name would imply. Many industrial practices involve the usage of various harmful (both to humans and the environment) heavy metals. When waste water is left untreated and exposed to other sources of water, these pollutants can cause serious environmental harm. One such example is chromium, which is used in a wide array of industries from metallurgy to dyes and in one of its oxidized states (chromium (IV)) is a carcinogen.
​ Water turbidity is the relative cloudiness of water. This altogether may not be so environmentally disastrous but it is still a way in which waste water can affect the environment. Much of the waste that is in the water is in some way visible, be it large enough in size or by color. These impurities themselves can have a huge impact on the environment in the previously stated way and as well can make a body of water not only be contaminated but appear contaminated.

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