Pollution
Life today is easy with all the technological advancements made during the industrial revolution. We
have more tools and equipment to make life comfortable than there are tools of necessity. High technology
and industrialization does not come without a price however. The side effect of our easy living is a subject
referred to as pollution. Pollution can be defined as the contamination of air, water, or soil by materials
that interfere with human health, the quality of life, or the natural functioning of an ecosystem. " Pollutants
are substances with which ecosystems have had no prior evolutionary experience, in terms of kinds or
amounts, so adaptive mechanisms are not in place that can deal with them." To survive the effects of our
own path of destruction, the constant monitoring and control of pollution is of vital importance. A look at
the Federal Governments attempts to manage pollution in three vital areas, air, water and nuclear waste
reveals that this subject is!
a matter that will continue to be of extreme importance to the survival of the ecosystem we call "Mother
Earth".
Air pollution is the contamination of the atmosphere by gaseous, liquid or solid wastes or by-products
that can endanger human health and the health and welfare of plants and animals. Each year industrially
developed countries produce billions of tons of pollutants. Many come from identifiable sources such as
sulfur dioxide that comes from the burning of coal. Others are formed through the action of sunlight on
previously emitted reactive materials. The noticeable effects such as reduced visibility and foul smell pale
when compared to health risks associated with high concentrations of pollutants. Release of methyl
isocyanate into the air at Bhopal, India in 1984 resulted in 3300 deaths and 20,000 illnesses. In the United
States, the Clean Air Act of 1967 as amended in 1970, 1977, and 1990 is the legal basis for air pollution
control. The Environmental Protection Agency has primary responsibility for carrying out the
requirements of the act, which specifies that air q!
uality standards be established for hazardous substances. These standards are in the form of concentration
levels that are believed to be low enough to protect public health. The act addresses source emission
standards and provides for prevention of significant deterioration of air quality where air is currently
cleaner than the standard. In 1990, ozone, carbon monoxide, particulate matter, acid rain and air toxins
were identified as major air pollution problems.
Another natural resource vital to our survival that is under attack from our own negligence is the water
supply. Our water supply is affected by our own living habits, our industries and by agriculture.
Wastewater from our homes and commercial establishments, if not properly treated will introduce harmful
chemical and bacteria into the water source. Likewise, industrial sources on a much larger scale can
generate large amounts of pollutants that can contaminate the waterways and effect the life cycle it
supports. Agriculture is the source of many organic and inorganic pollutants in surface and
groundwater.Sediment from the erosion of cropland and compounds that originate in animal wastes and
commercial fertilizers. Wastes that are discharged directly into U.S. marine waters are estimated to exceed
45 million metric tons per year. The primary legislative basis for managing water pollution is the Federal
Water Pollution Control Act of 1956 as amended by the Water Qualit!
y Act of 1965, th Federal Water pollution Control Act amendments of 1972 and the Clean Water Act of
1977. The 1972 amendments established stingent controls and cleanup deadlines for both industrial and
municipal pollution by setting rigorous standards for wastewater.
The harnessing of nuclear power has presented an electrical source of presumably unlimited potential.
However, the last step of the nuclear fuel cycle, watste management, remains one of the most contoversial.
The principal issue is not so much the present danger as the danger to generations in the future. The
technology for packaging the waste products so they pose no immediate hazard is available but how long it
will be effective is a concern. This type of waste mangement is constantly being researched and developed.
Permanent but retrievable storage in deep stable geologic formations is the current solution. The Nuclear
Regulatory Commision, an agency of the federal government establishes the