Solutions for Pollution
Increasing regulation will correspondingly increase the demand for reliability, performance, and new features in water treatment and testing, envisions Mark Mullet, senior product manager at GE Water. It’s not going to be easy to deliver. “Corrosive applications will pose special challenges.”
He mentions alkali, chlorine gas, and products like caustic soda as particularly corrosive elements, but it’s the man-made contaminants such as pharmaceuticals that Dan Dair, technical manager for World Water Works Inc. believes will pose the biggest challenges because they are difficult to detect, too small to be removed with current processes, and don’t degrade. “Organics are already regulated; this is a future market.”
In The Spotlight: Pre-conference workshops Developing Effective and Practical Storm Water Pollution Prevention Plans, Sunday and Monday August 27, 28, 2017 and Fundamentals of an MS4 Stormwater Management Program, Sunday August 27, 2017. You may register for workshops and certifications without also registering for the annual conference. View the Complete StormCon Conference Program (PDF).
The industry will see refinements that shorten installation time, continues Dair. Once installed, the systems will remove contaminants such as phosphorous and nitrogen efficiently and redirect as much carbon as possible. He foresees a balance of energy and carbon utilization. “The goal is to create energy and product from wastewater.”
It’s a tall order, especially considering that places like India have no waste treatment system, points out Tucker. “They build remediation islands. With 1.2 billion people, it’s an enormous challenge.”
That’s why he says “problems will come from undeveloped countries. The big issue is that we are running out of water. Shortages will hit us all and we’ll turn to collecting surface water.” He believes that companies like his are in a unique position to help in order to secure the future of our global water supply.
Whatever technology and tools we use to keep our water supply free of contaminants, it’s clear that continuous monitoring will play a key role. It’s important to know what’s in our water supply.
It’s also important to make changes. According to Conserve Energy Future:
- 40% of the rivers and 46% of the lakes in the US are polluted and are considered unhealthy for swimming, fishing, or aquatic life
- 80% of water pollution is due to improper disposal of garbage
- 1.2 trillion gallons of untreated sewage, stormwater, and industrial waste are dumped into US waters annually
- 1.2 trillion gallons of sewage from households, industry, and restaurants are discharged into US lakes, rivers, and oceans each year, according to EPA
- 2 million tons of human waste are disposed in water every day
- Approximately half of all ocean pollution is caused by sewage and wastewater
- About 700 million people worldwide drink contaminated water
A survey done by Food & Water Watch indicates that approximately 3.5 billion people in 2025 will face water shortage issues due, in part, to water pollution…unless things change.
The news isn’t all glum; things are beginning to change. Since 1970, EPA has invested well over $200 billion to improve water treatment plants that serve about 88% of the population in 2015 (as compared with just 69% in 1972).
Although two of the goals of the CWA—to achieve swimmable waters by 1983 and zero discharge of pollutants by 1985—were not reached, the law did initiate a dramatic increase in federal support for upgrading publicly owned treatment works, with $77.2 billion in federal grants and contributions funneling through EPA’s Construction Grants and Clean Water State Revolving Fund programs to states and municipalities.
Even with increased funding, the challenge is immense. Until the 1990s, 20–25 million gallons of raw sewage were carried each day to California from Mexico by the New River. Still today, factories worldwide are pumping 5–10 billion tons industrial waste—polluted water—into rivers, streams, and oceans. Only by changing habits, enforcing laws, and monitoring and removing contaminants can we ensure the safety of our water supply.