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Nonpoint source pollution 

Nonpoint source (NPS) pollution is pollution resulting from many diffuse sources, in direct contrast to point source pollution which results from a single source. Nonpoint source pollution generally results from land runoff, precipitation, atmospheric deposition, drainage, seepage, or hydrological modification (rainfall and snowmelt) where tracing pollution back to a single source is difficult.

Contaminated stormwater washed off parking lots, roads and highways, and lawns (often containing fertilizers and pesticides) is called urban runoff. This runoff is often classified as a type of NPS pollution. Some people may also consider it a point source because many times it is channeled into municipal storm drain systems and discharged through pipes to nearby surface waters. However, not all urban runoff flows through storm drain systems before entering water bodies. Some may flow directly into water bodies, especially in developing and suburban areas. Also, unlike other types of point sources, such as industrial discharges, sewage treatment plants and other operations, pollution in urban runoff cannot be attributed to one activity or even group of activities. Therefore, because it is not caused by an easily identified and regulated activity, urban runoff pollution sources are also often treated as true non-point sources as municipalities work to abate them.
Sediment (loose soil) includes silt (fine particles) and suspended solids (larger particles). Sediment may enter surface waters from eroding stream banks, and from surface runoff due to improper plant cover on urban and rural land. Sediment creates turbidity (cloudiness) in water bodies, reducing the amount of light reaching lower depths, which can inhibit growth of submerged aquatic plants and consequently affect species which are dependent on them, such as fish and shellfish. High turbidity levels also inhibit drinking water purification systems.
Nitrogen is the other key ingredient in fertilizers, and it generally becomes a pollutant in saltwater or brackish estuarine systems where nitrogen is a limiting nutrient. Similar to phosphorus in fresh-waters, excess amounts of bioavailable nitrogen in marine systems lead to eutrophication and algae blooms. Hypoxia is an increasingly common result of eutrophication in marine systems and can impact large areas of estuaries, bays, and near shore coastal waters. Each summer, hypoxic conditions form in bottom waters where the Mississippi River enters the Gulf of Mexico. During recent summers, the aereal extent of this "dead zone" is comparable to the area of New Jersey and has major detrimental consequences for fisheries in the region.
Toxic chemicals mainly include organic compounds and inorganic compounds. These compounds include pesticides like DDT, acids, and salts that have severe effects to the ecosystem and water-bodies. These compounds can threaten the health of both humans and aquatic species while being resistant to environmental breakdown, thus allowing them to persist in the environment. These toxic chemicals could come from croplands, nurseries, orchards, building sites, gardens, lawns and landfills.
Urban and suburban areas are a main sources of nonpoint source pollution due to the amount of runoff that is produced due to the large amount of paved surfaces. Paved surfaces, such as asphalt and concrete are impervious to water penetrating them. Any water that is on contact with these surfaces will run off and be absorbed by the surrounding environment. These surfaces make it easier for stormwater to carry pollutants into the surrounding soil.
Agricultural operations account for a large percentage of all nonpoint source pollution in the United States. When large tracts of land are plowed to grow crops, it exposes and loosens soil that was once buried. This makes the exposed soil more vulnerable to erosion during rainstorms. It also can increase the amount of fertilizer and pesticides carried into nearby bodies of water.
Active mining operations are considered point sources, however runoff from abandoned mining operations contribute to nonpoint source pollution. In strip mining operations, the top of the mountain is removed to expose the desired ore. If this area is not properly reclaimed once the mining has finished, soil erosion can occur. Additionally, there can be chemical reactions with the air and newly exposed rock to create acidic runoff. Water that seeps out of abandoned subsurface mines can also be highly acidic. This can seep into the nearest body of water and change the pH in the aquatic environment.
The Coastal Zone Act Reauthorization Amendments (CZARA) is another provision of the Clean Water Act that mandates regulation of nonpoint source pollution in states with coastal waters. CZARA requires states with coastlines to implement management measures to remediate water pollution, and to make sure that the product of these measures is implementation as opposed to adoption.







Member of IWOCE RC PBC 2019:


Roberto Di Cosmo

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