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Undergraduate students in Durham University’s Department of Geography Rebecca and Victoria Smith explain how people can become more aware of the causes of urban diffuse pollution and what can be done about it. This is part of a series of posts on urban diffuse pollution awareness. Authors were selected for the Environment Agency’s Pollution Challenge that showcases the best and innovative ideas from students, academics and industry on tackling the problem of urban diffuse pollution in the UK.
In order to address the issue of urban diffuse pollution we need to be aware of the issue and our actions. It is likely that every day we contribute some urban diffuse pollution without even rrealising it. Such simple everyday tasks include washing your car on your driveway, or not cleaning up pet waste. The waste water from washing your car on your driveway contributes to urban diffuse pollution because rather than this water going to the sewer to be treated and the cleaning chemicals and materials been removed, the water goes down storm drains. Water from storm drains enters nearby river channels along with the chemicals from washing your car. This causes the water quality of these rivers to be reduced. Poor water quality can impact the surrounding environment, reducing biodiversity.
To reduce such contributions we need to improve awareness of our everyday actions that contribute to urban diffuse pollution. If we take note of such simple activities, for example by washing our cars at garages with car washing facilities, this waste water can be treated prior to entering the river channels. This can save you the job of washing your car and getting wet (and also help the environment!). Read the rest of this entry »
Durham Geography postgraduate student Libby Ferns looks at the importance of pipes to transferring waste water and how to prevent waste from entering our streets and rivers. This is part of a series of posts on urban diffuse pollution awareness. Libby was one of a number of students from Durham University selected for the Environment Agency’s Pollution Challenge that showcases the best and innovative ideas from students, academics and industry on tackling the problem of urban diffuse pollution in the UK.
Have you ever wondered what occurs when you flush your toilet?
Or where your shampoo and bathwater goes?
Why don’t we go and follow it!?
When things go right, our wastewater enters this fantastic system of pipes and machines.
Our poop is separated, swooshed around, beaten to a pulp, twirled again, until eventually something useful is made out of it. Gas for heating things, and sludge that can perhaps be used to fertilise plants (or at least be easily got rid of!) Pipes ensure that nothing horrible is oozed into our rivers and green spaces. And if you need any more convincing about the importance of pipes, imagine what it would have been like to live in the Tudor period, or in fact, at any time up until the Victorian era. Back then poop filled the streets and rivers. It was so smelly and dirty in cities that Victorians often died because they got sick from the filthiness. We are lucky to have our pipes. Read the rest of this entry »
In the first of a series of posts on urban diffusion pollution, postgraduate student in Durham University’s Department of Geography, Libby Ferns, pins down exactly what diffuse pollution is and some of the ways it gets into our streets and waterways. This is part of a series of posts on urban diffuse pollution awareness. Libby was one of a number of students from Durham University selected for the Environment Agency’s Pollution Challenge that showcases the best and innovative ideas from students, academics and industry on tackling the problem of urban diffuse pollution in the UK.
If you’re anything like me, you would be thinking “urban diffuse pollution: that sounds like one of those silly scientific geography words that is more complicated than it needs to be”. You would be right. Urban diffuse pollution basically means urban mess: dirty litter, chemicals, gunk and nastiness. It is a problem for developed and less developed countries alike. It damages our town or city environment, it is really spread out, it comes from lots of places, and is, in general, difficult to clean up and even more difficult to work out where its coming from! But just because it is hard to see where this mess comes from, doesn’t mean it isn’t important to think about. The trouble is, we have all, at one time or other, contributed to this pollution. Read more
Clean water is often taken for granted despite growing evidence that it is threatened in many parts of the world by either environmental contamination and/or socioeconomic problems, such as poverty, which often tend to go hand in hand. Arsenic contaminated ground water used for drinking and cooking is commonplace in many parts of Bangladesh. Like other chemical elements known to be poisonous to humans, arsenic is tolerated to some degree, but beyond certain thresholds ingesting arsenic is toxic leading to risk of disease and death.
Arsenic contaminated groundwater currently threatens the health of 70 million people in 61 of 64 districts in Bangladesh. Many people living in districts plagued with arsenic contaminated ground water regularly drink water with concentrations of arsenic far above national and WHO standards. An important study from Prof Peter Atkins and Dr Manzurul Hassan explores how groundwater arsenic concentration varies throughout areas of southwest Bangladesh. Understanding the scale of arsenic contamination, the complex processes that lead to arsenic in groundwater and how arsenic spreads over time is currently needed to reduce arsenic-related health risks. The study reveals a highly uneven spatial pattern of arsenic concentrations that can inform government policy for addressing where high levels of arsenic contamination occur in order to mitigate arsenic poisoning, a health and social hazard. 358 of the 375 tubewells sampled in the study had concentrations of arsenic of at least .05 mg/L and only 17 of the tubewells (4.50 percent) sampled are considered arsenic-safe. This is a large health concern for people living in areas of Bangladesh where the only source of water they have is contaminated with arsenic that is either above or well above the WHO standard (<0.01 mg/L), but also the limit set by the government of Bangladesh (0.05 mg/L). Read more
The River Eden is one of the most beautiful rivers in the UK, if not all of Europe. It is host to a wide variety of different plant and animal species and is a Site of Special Scientific Interest. Many communities live on or near the River Eden or one of its tributaries. Human impact on the landscape often has unintended or unforeseen consequences on ecosystems, including rivers. Agriculture, primarily through the use of fertilisers, changes the ecology of river systems which affects all plant and wildlife as well as humans.
Over time, pollutants accumulate in the River Eden through farming practices, something that has been of concern to local communities and scientists alike. In order to monitor and develop ways for decreasing diffuse pollution from agriculture, researchers from Durham, Lancaster, Newcastle, the Centre for Hydrology and Ecology, Askham Bryan College (Newton Rigg) and the Eden Rivers Trust, have come together with communities, including farmers, to develop new ways to monitor and improve river water quality. The project known as the Eden Demonstration Test Catchment, or EdenDTC for short, has installed 10 river monitoring stations to monitor the water quality of the River Eden. The EdenDTC has made live, real-time data about the River Eden freely available online. Read more