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Mid-atlantic biodiversity air and water pollution

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      MID-ATLANTIC BIODIVERSITYINTRODUCTIONThe Mid-Atlantic Biodiversity zone of the United States Of America refers to the Atlantic Seaboard between New England and the South.The region includes Delaware,Maryland,New Jersey, NewYork,Pennsylvania,Virginia and West Virginia.

    This region is a heavy industry zone with a dense population.Rapid industrialization and growing population aided by technological advancements have given rise to enormous pressure on this ecosystem. There has been a continuous destruction of the biosphere in the form of pollution in air, water and soil. Indiscriminate felling of trees to aid construction, loss of greenery, release of toxic gases like Sulphur di oxide and Carbon monoxide, release of industrial toxic waste and leaching of agricultural inputs like fertilizers and pesticides in to the water bodies have further aggravated the problem in terms of increased pollution level.

    Air pollution and water pollution is a topic of great concern in this region of the United States.AIR POLLUTION AND THE COMMUNITY SOLUTIONIndustrial units that release toxic gases like Sulphur di oxide, Nitrogenous compounds and Mercurial derivatives contribute to air pollution to a great extent. The automobile exhaust fumes rich in carbon monoxide harms the oxygen binding mechanism in human blood. Welding is another industrial important contributor in which metal or other thermoplastic materials are joined together by the application of heat or pressure.

    This process produces gases like acetylene, carbon monoxide, oxides of nitrogen, ozone, phosgene and tungsten. (Palmer .T, 2006) The gas and chemical pollutants primarily enter the human system by inhalation route namely Respiration. The deposition of these inhaled particles in the lungs is influenced by its physical and chemical properties and a variety of host factors.

    In the lungs, these particles produce a variety of reactions including Asthma and Cancer depending on the concentration, duration of the exposure of the particles, and degree of exposure. Even babies in the womb have been found to be susceptible than their mothers to DNA damage from air pollution, despite the added protection of the placenta. The alarmingly high number of genetic mutations reported in the babies of New York have been linked the mutations to emissions from vehicles and other sources of urban pollution. A recent study of 265 pairs of nonsmoking African-American and Latina mothers and newborns in New York City at the time of delivery have shown that mothers and newborns had the same level of DNA damage from air pollutants.

    It is possible to measure the level of DNA damage from air pollutants in mothers and newborns by analyzing stretches of mutated DNA, called biomarkers that have been associated with exposure to diesel emissions and other air pollutants. (Pereira, et al., 2004). Ground level ozone seems to be the main problem in Maryland.

    The Baltimore metropolitan region and Cecil County have been designated severe ground level ozone “nonattainment areas” by the U.S. Environment Protection Agency. Ground level ozone is formed when strong sunlight reacts with pollutants from a variety of sources like automobile exhaust fumes, lawn mowers or emissions from power plants and industrial facilities.

    The main ozone-causing pollutants have been identified as volatile organic compounds and nitrogen oxides. Soot pollution have been found to cause about 5,000 premature deaths annually and Smog pollution about 7,000 hospital admissions for respiratory and cardiovascular disease in Pennsylvania. Most of the soot particulate matter comes from vehicles and power plants and  smog develops as a composite of emissions. The U.

    S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has finalized a rule that will dramatically reduce the amount of pollution coming into the Garden State from other states and reduces pollution emission in New Jersey. The Clean Air Interstate Rule (CAIR) is expected to permanently cap emissions of sulfur dioxide (SO2) and nitrogen oxides (NOx) in the eastern United States. When fully implemented, CAIR will reduce SO2 emissions in 28 eastern states especially, the Mid Atlantic region .

    The Clean Air Mercury Rule is another frame work that will drastically check mercury pollution (http://www.epa.gov ). The Clean Air Act amended in 1990 gives a framework for a pollution free air with legal dictums on emission limitations, ozone protection, prevention of significant deterioration in air quality, plan requirements, emission standards on automobile sources, acid deposition control due to precipitation and stratospheric ozone protection.

    The federal government has set standards for SO2, Carbon monoxide and other toxic emissions. Section 111 of the federal Clean Air Act stipulates the list of pollution sources that states must regulate. According to these regulations, sources must meet performance standards and  prescribed emissions guidelines.WATER POLLUTION AND THE COMMUNITY SOLUTIONWater pollution is another area of great concern.

    There is a lot of research in the areas of eutrophication in freshwater and marine environment. The most serious pollution problem in aquatic ecosystem is Eutrophication. Eutrophication can be understood as the enrichment of an ecosystem with chemical nutrients like nitrogen or phosphorus from agricultural and domestic run off. (Anderson, 1997).

    Eutrophication can be considered a severe form of water pollution because it promotes excessive plant growth, favoring certain species over others and forcing a change in species composition. In aquatic environments, enhanced growth of choking aquatic vegetation of phytoplankton disrupts the equilibrium of the ecosystem. There are serious ecological impacts of Eutrophication namely, decreased biodiversity, changes in species composition, dominance, and toxicity effects. When an aquatic ecosystem receives abnormal levels of nutrients, there is an abnormal increase in the primary producer species such as algae in aquatic ecosystems.

    This is called an algal bloom. Algal blooms seriously affect the sunlight availability to bottom-dwelling organisms and cause variations in the amount of dissolved oxygen in the water. Oxygen is required by all plants and animals for respiration and it is replenished in day by plants and algae. Under eutrophic conditions, there is an increase in dissolved oxygen during the day.

    But during dark, there is severe oxygen depletion by the respiring algae and by microorganisms that feed on the increasing mass of dead algae. When dissolved oxygen levels decline to hypoxic levels, fish and other creatures such as shrimp, especially immobile bottom dwellers die due to suffocation. Eutrophication also causes abundant availability of a normally “limiting nutrient” leading to shifts in the species composition of ecosystems. For example, an abnormal increase in nitrogen allows competitive species to invade and dominate the native inhabitant species.

    Algal blooms also known as “nuisance algae” or “harmful algal blooms,” and are often toxic to plants and animals. These toxic compounds find their way up the ecological food chain. An example of algal toxins finding their way into humans is the case of shellfish poisoning (Shumway 1990). Biotoxins created during algal blooms are taken up by shellfish (mussels, oysters), causing paralytic, neurotoxic, and diarrhoetic shellfish poisoning   in human beings.

    Other animals act as vectors for such toxins, as in the case of ciguatera, a predator fish that accumulates the toxin and then poisons humans. Specific sources that contribute to nutrient loading can be classified as point and nonpoint sources. Point sources are those sources where the nutrient waste travels directly from source to water as in factories that leave waste discharge pipes directly into a water body. Nonpoint sources of pollution known as ‘diffuse’ or ‘runoff’ pollution comes from ill-defined and diffuse sources.

    Commercial activities such as mineral extraction, disposal of Waste products such as sewage and industrial waste, fishing and tourism has damaged aquatic ecosystems. Some of the main pollutants affecting waters are the high levels of nitrogen and phosphorous-based pollutants entering the water from inputs from agriculture and industries. Nutrient enrichment of the sea in this region is often associated with freshwater discharge as in Hudson River and so often confined to waters of lower salinity. Marine eutrophication typically involves sporadic increases in phytoplankton biomass or bigger blooms as in the Chesapeake Bay than the consistently high levels of phytoplankton chlorophyll found in nutrient rich lakes in summer.

    Usually, 10 mg chl m-3 is the Environmental Quality Standard (EQS) for coastal waters. Thus, if chlorophyll frequently exceeds this level in summer, a water body is declared eutrophic. Poorly maintained septic tanks also contribute to water pollution by releasing pathogens like E.coli, Salmonella typhi, Vibrio Cholera, Hepatitis A virus and Amoebic cysts that can cause enteric infections which can be fatal if untreated.

    Growing concern for controlling water pollution in US has led to enactment of the Federal Water Pollution Control Act Amendments of 1972. As amended in 1977, this law became commonly known as the Clean Water Act. The Act establishes the basic structure for regulating discharges of pollutants into the waters of the United States. It gives EPA the authority to implement pollution control programs such as setting wastewater standards for industry.

    The Clean Water Act also sets water quality standards for all contaminants in surface waters. The Act made it unlawful for any person to discharge any pollutant from a point source into navigable waters, unless a permit was obtained under its provisions. It also funds the construction of sewage treatment plants under the construction grants program and recognized the need for planning to address the critical problems posed by nonpoint source pollution. Subsequent enactments have modified some of the earlier Clean Water Act provisions.

    Revisions in 1981 have streamlined the municipal construction grants process, improving the capabilities of treatment plants built under the program. Changes in 1987 have phased out the construction grants program, replacing it with the State Water Pollution Control Revolving Fund, more commonly known as the Clean Water State Revolving Fund. ( http://www.epa.

    gov ).Virginia, bordered on the west by the Blue Ridge Mountains in close proximity with populated cities like Washington D.C., Baltimore, New York, etc.

    has serious water problems to deal with as well. Here, flat areas do not have nature’s gravity to pull run-off along the waterways and estuaries to a larger body of water .In addition, the supersaturated ground cannot rid itself of the nutrients and fertilizers used for the crops. Thus, leaching of these compounds into the water table is greatly increased.

    A number of whole home water purification systems, Environmentally friendly on-site septic solutions, Drainage & Surface Water Solutions, Grading/Clearing and Culvert Installations have been carried out. Leesburg now has “159 miles of sanitary sewer main, 9.4 miles of sanitary sewer force main, 4,588 manholes, and 9 pump stations. In January 2002, construction was completed on an $11 million Biosolids Processing Facility for drying sludge.

    This was the first dryer of its type given the stamp of approval in all of the Commonwealth of Virginia. Leesburg residents benefit by receiving the resultant biosolids product, named ‘Tuscarora Landscaper’s Choice,’ free for landscaping purposes.The Targeted Watersheds Grant Program is a competitive grant program that encourages the protection and restoration of the country’s water resources through cooperative conservation. The program supports collaborative watershed partnerships that are ready to implement on-the-ground restoration and protection activities designed to achieve quick, measurable environmental results.

    ( http://www.epa.gov ). The Chesapeake Bay Targeted Watersheds Grant Program is another program to expand the collective knowledge on the most innovative, sustainable and cost-effective strategies including market-based approaches for reducing excess nutrient loads within specific tributaries to the Chesapeake Bay.

    (http://www.epa.gov ).CONCLUSIONOur ecosystem is already in distress due to a variety of pollutions.

    Hence, the solution for pollution is not dilution of the pollutants in the ecosystem as was the practice in 70s.This is due to the serious consequences like extinction of beneficial aquatic organisms and biological magnification of pollutants as evidenced by the flow of these pollutants through the ecological food chain into the human beings causing numerous health hazards. Thus, Conservation of the existing ecosystems is important in terms of ecological and human health. Thus, reduction in the emissions of toxic compounds, input of the nutrients like nitrates and phosphates into the water sources will reduce pollution.

    This is possible with close monitoring of the point and non-point sources of pollution especially from industrial, agricultural amd domestic sources. Any design that prevents the domestic wastewater reaching the water sources directly such as simple septic tanks to waste water treatment plants will reduce eutrophication. Reduction in the use of nitrogenous and phosphate fertilizers with enhanced use of natural fertilizers and microbes like nitrogen fixing bacteria greatly reduces the agricultural contribution to water pollution. Thus, it is the pristine duty of every citizen to safeguard and conserve the ecosystem because Man is just a part of the ecosystem and Biosphere.

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