Causes of Water Pollution

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Updated: Jan 15, 2020
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Causes of water pollution vary but the effects are always the same; the pollution is harmful to the ecosystem and humans as well as being devastating. Pollution with-in the environment enters our soil, air and water & spread via natural forces; wind and water current. How quickly & the method of clean-up we use is of the utmost importance to humans and the environment. Specifically, water pollution caused by Industrial; oils that are harmful to marine wildlife that suffocate fish because oil doesn’t dissolve it stays on the water surface thus affecting even birds’ feathers & toxic chemicals; such as; asbestos which cause cancer to lead and mercury are just a couple of the things that have polluted our bodies of water & water supplies.

The Technology we chose is a simple commercial sponge that has been dipped into a solution that will repel water and absorb oil & chemicals. A sponge can offer 10 times the absorption. A sponge’s structure is integral to how they work meaning the holes in a sponge have reason. The holes are abortion points & storage areas as the sponge absorbs the holes shrink trapping in the liquid. Certain materials can alter the logic of a sponge as Purdue University has that has the potential to be revolutionary to environmental clean-up of oil & toxic chemicals making it the quickest, cost efficient & logical method while minimizing damage to the ecosystem from man power. As we dig deeper into it, it will be clear how certain causes of water pollution can be cleaned-up by something so simple & revolutionary. My part of the course project will give the different causes of water pollution but specifically focus on oil & toxic chemical pollution and the causes of them. The technology; the absorbent sponge could be an inexpensive while effective due to the dipping solution repealing water and absorbing instead the oils & chemicals.

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Causes of Water Pollution

There are many causes of water pollution that are both natural & anthropogenic. The main causes of water pollution are the anthropogenic causes. These include a few of the following;

  • Agriculture Runoff
  • Storm Water Runoff
  • Accidental leaks & Spills
  • Storage of Chemicals
  • Industrial leaks; water supplies effected
  • BP & Exxon Valdez Disasters

Leaking Landfills; ground water below; improper disposal of batteries could add metal

The list goes on for causes of water pollution and each reason is less important than the other whether its plastic material polluting the waters all over the world that could release harmful things into the water from the plastic degrading slowly in the water to mining activities they are all extremely important to human’s health and the environment. Focusing specifically on water pollution caused by oil & toxic leaks we will be able to understand how the simple absorbent sponge fits into being a cost effective yet simple savior to the environment. The number of spills in our oceans and waterways is not a small amount as one would think. Every year thousands of spills occur in coastal waters all over the world releasing oil & chemicals into the water that kill the wild life, wipe out habitats, as well as polluting detrimental resources with-in the food chain not to mention the coastal communities effected economically. The damage caused by oil & toxic spills can last for decades.

Causes of oil & toxic chemical spills & leaks are usual industrial in nature. Large spills as the Exxon Valdez the tanker in 1989 ruptured their hull due to grounding on a reef spilt 11 million gallons of crude oil into the water and 25 years later we have species & habitat not recovering from what was the largest spill in U.S. until the 2010 Deep Horizon disaster. The cleanup of these oil spills did not happen quickly, with-in months the oil spread resulting in a larger area now being destroyed. “”Once the focus shifted from response to cleanup, OR & R addressed issues related to the effectiveness and environmental effects of cleanup technologies”” (NOAA, 2018). Oil kills animals through internal & external exposure.

The longer it takes to clean up the more damage, not to mention that the attempts used to clean up oil spills can potentially harm the very ones their trying to protect ultimately. As the NOAA stated regarding oil spills and attempts; “”For example, using hot water or chemicals to remove oil can harm plants and animals, and simply sending a team of cleanup workers into an oiled area can trample sensitive organisms and mix oil more deeply into a beach. The experts who respond to oil spills must consider all of these potential problems when evaluating the trade-offs of how far to go in removing spilled oil”” (NOAA, 2018). Time is of the essence & how it is cleaned up is vital with oil spills of this magnitude. How we clean up the environment from accidents is just as important as preventing them.

Toxic chemical spills into our rivers, water supplies & the ocean is just as deadly as an oil spill. There are different causes to toxic spills as well from ship collisions to industrial leaks with 17 industries deemed to be the most pollutant. Chemical spills not only affect the environment but humans as well. The 2014 Elk River chemical spill caused by Freedom Industries Facility’s tank leaked 7,500 gallons of toxic chemicals into the river upstream; the river is the source of drinking water for nine counties. This caused almost 200,000 people in nine counties to not have access to portable water with-in the Charleston, Virginia metro area. This is just one example of causes of industrial spills that effect everyone not just the environment. How was the clean up done for a spill like this? “”To deal with the problem, McIntyre said engineers are adding additional carbon and other chemicals to speed the treatment process, and to “”move water out to the distribution system to flush it and to make sure customers have clean water.”” He said that to get a better handle on the situation, “”we need to know what the quantities are and what the health risks are for these quantities.”” (Howard, B., 2018).

Environment remediation is removing pollution/contaminates from water that includes surface and ground. These projects run from large to small and can be very expensive and time consuming as well as damage the environment with the method of cleanup. There are many types of technology & methods used to clean up contaminated water such as;

Pump & Treat

Solidification & Stabilization; adding materials to bind certain contaminants but doesn’t remove them from the environment only prevents spreading.

Bioremediation; common use for oil removal, microorganisms effective to break down chemicals in oil.

Oil spills or toxic leaks are devastating to humans & the environment. We humans, are causing the devastation where we work, live and the most important thing that is needed to stay alive, we pollute with-out any thought. How quickly a clean up is done is detrimental to all involved. The development of the technology; the absorbent sponge is not only cost effect but can be deployed quickly, less man power and no harm to the environment like other traditional cleanup methods with considerably less man power that causes damage trying to save the very ones they have been protecting.


Hamilton, J. (n.d.). What is environmental remediation? Retrieved August 3, 2018, from

US Department of Commerce, & National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. (2009, November 16). Oil and Chemical Spills. Retrieved August 3, 2018, from

Judge Approves West Virginia Water Crisis Settlement. (2014). Retrieved July 25, 2018, from

Water Pollution Causes | Environmental Pollution Centers. (2017). Retrieved July 28, 2018, from

25 Years Later: Timeline of Recovery from Exxon Valdez Oil Spill. (2018). Retrieved August 4, 2018, from

Exxon Valdez Oil Spill. (n.d.). Retrieved July 30, 2018, from

How Toxic Is Oil? (n.d.). Retrieved July 27, 2018, from

Howard, B. C. (2016, June 06). What’s the Chemical Behind West Virginia’s River Spill? Retrieved July 16, 2018, from

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