The Quest for Clean Water

By Orlins, Joseph; Wehrly, Anne | The World and I, May 2003 | Go to article overview

The Quest for Clean Water


Orlins, Joseph, Wehrly, Anne, The World and I


As water pollution threatens our health and environment, we need to implement an expanding array of techniques for its assessment, prevention, and remediation.

In the 1890s, entrepreneur William Love sought to establish a model industrial community in the La Salle district of Niagara Falls, New York. The plan included building a canal that tapped water from the Niagara River for a navigable waterway and a hydroelectric power plant. Although work on the canal was begun, a nationwide economic depression and other factors forced abandonment of the project.

By 1920, the land adjacent to the canal was sold and used as a landfill for municipal and industrial wastes. Later purchased by Hooker Chemicals and Plastics Corp., the landfill became a dumping ground for nearly 21,000 tons of mixed chemical wastes before being closed and covered over in the early 1950s. Shortly thereafter, the property was acquired by the Niagara Falls Board of Education, and schools and residences were built on and around the site.

In the ensuing decades, groundwater levels in the area rose, parts of the landfill subsided, large metal drums of waste were uncovered, and toxic chemicals oozed out. All this led to the contamination of surface waters, oily residues in residential basements, corrosion of sump pumps, and noxious odors. Residents began to question if these problems were at the root of an apparent prevalence of birth defects and miscarriages in the neighborhood.

Eventually, in 1978, the area was declared unsafe by the New York State Department of Health, and President Jimmy Carter approved emergency federal assistance. The school located on the landfill site was closed and nearby houses were condemned. State and federal agencies worked together to relocate hundreds of residents and contain or destroy the chemical wastes.

That was the bitter story of Love Canal. Although not the worst environmental disaster in U.S. history, it illustrates the tragic consequences of water pollution.

Water quality standards

In addition to toxic chemical wastes, water pollutants occur in many other forms, including pathogenic microbes (harmful bacteria and viruses), excess fertilizers (containing compounds of phosphorus and nitrogen), and trash floating on streams, lakes, and beaches. Water pollution can also take the form of sediment eroded from stream banks, large blooms of algae, low levels of dissolved oxygen, or abnormally high temperatures (from the discharge of coolant water at power plants).

The United States has seen a growing concern about water pollution since the middle of the twentieth century, as the public recognized that pollutants were adversely affecting human health and rendering lakes unswimmable, streams unfishable, and rivers flammable. In response, in 1972, Congress passed the Federal Water Pollution Control Act Amendments, later modified and referred to as the Clean Water Act. Its purpose was to "restore and maintain the chemical, physical, and biological integrity of the nation's waters."

The Clean Water Act set the ambitious national goal of completely eliminating the discharge of pollutants into navigable waters by 1985, as well as the interim goal of making water clean enough to sustain fish and wildlife, while being safe for swimming and boating. To achieve these goals, certain standards for water quality were established.

The "designated uses" of every body of water subject to the act must first be identified. Is it a source for drinking water? Is it used for recreation, such as swimming? Does it supply agriculture or industry? Is it a significant habitat for fish and other aquatic life? Thereafter, the water must be tested for pollutants. If it fails to meet the minimum standards for its designated uses, then steps must be taken to limit pollutants entering it, so that it becomes suitable for those uses.

On the global level, the fundamental importance of clean water has come into the spotlight. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • A full archive of books and articles related to this one
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

The Quest for Clean Water
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

    Already a member? Log in now.