Dumping in Indiana Rivers and its Effects on the Environment – Research Paper Example

The paper "Dumping in Indiana Rivers and its Effects on the Environment" is a worthy example of a research paper on environmental studies. Rivers have played an important role in the progress of nations worldwide since historic times. They have been used as a source of water, for food, for transport, for recreation, as a means of defense, to generate power, and increasingly in modern times, for disposing of waste. The major rivers of Indiana include the Ohio, Wabash, White, Kankakee, and Tippecanoe. The White River is the largest tributary of the Wabash River, which is the largest northern tributary of the Ohio River. Interestingly, Wabash is also the longest free-flowing river east of the Mississippi River while the Ohio River is the second major tributary of the Mississippi River. Today, most rivers are getting polluted at an alarming rate (Bannister et al., 2006). The objective of this paper is to analyze how dumping in Indiana Rivers affects the environment, not only in Indiana but also other areas including the ocean. Pollution of the rivers could occur from the point or nonpoint (i.e., diffuse) sources. Examples of point sources are discharges from sewage works and factories. Diffuse pollution comes from pollutants such as pesticides, soil and fertilizers washed from agricultural land. In 1997, the White River was listed as one of the United States most threatened rivers (White-River-[Indiana], www.nationmaster.com). Pesticides are used extensively in the White River basin for corn and soybean cultivation with the result toxic residues of pesticides such as alachlor, atrazine etc. were frequently detected near the mouth of the White River during 1991 - 1995 (Crawford, 1995). A major source of pollution of the White River is stormwater pollution which occurs as a result of the rainwater traveling through gutters, storm drains, channels, ditches and eventually into the source of drinking water, the White River (www.washingtonin.us). Stormwater pollution results from everyday activities such as illegal dumping in the streets and in the storm drain system. The most common pollutants are trash and rubbish (e.g., plastic grocery bags, plastic beverage bottles, cigarette butts, grass clippings, dirt, sand, rock, etc.) and chemicals and toxins (e.g., used motor oil, antifreeze, fertilizer, pesticides, sewage overflow, pet droppings, etc.). Besides, Indianapolis and more than 100 other Indiana towns dump human waste into the rivers and streams (Segall, 2008). According to a report published by the Indiana Department of Environmental Management (IDEM), about 6 billion gallons of untreated sewage were discharged between September 2007 and August 2008 from 133 locations into the Indiana waterways (including the White River). This kind of dumping is termed as combined sewer overflow. The Wabash River, directly and through its tributaries, drains about 75% of the State of Indiana. Thus, what is done in “…..Indiana to affect the quality of water of the Wabash River ultimately affects the Ohio River, the Mississippi River, and the Gulf of Mexico.  The “dead zone” plume in the Gulf of Mexico extending out from the mouth of the Mississippi River is attributable largely to farming and land use practices in the Midwest, including Indiana.” (www.nature.org). The pollutants, especially the long-lived varieties such as plastics, polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) and toxic heavy metals (e.g., Hg and Cd) entering the White River can be carried all the way to the ocean through the intricate network of rivers and their tributaries mentioned at the beginning of this paper. The pollutants can lead to long-term degradation of the environment since, for instance, compared to a newspaper which takes about 6 weeks to degrade, an aluminum can takes 200 years, and a plastic bottle 450 years to decompose (Marine Debris Timeline, www.epa.gov). Furthermore, “…..persistent organic pollutants (including pesticides), heavy metals, oils, nutrients, and sediments – whether brought by rivers or discharged directly into coastal waters – take a severe toll on human health and well-being as well as on coastal ecosystems. The result is more carcinogens in seafood, more closed beaches, more red tides, more beached carcasses of seabirds, fish and even marine mammals.” (UNEP Report on Land-based Sources of Pollution). In conclusion, dumping of trash and other waste matter into Indiana Rivers could be detrimental to the environment, not only in Indiana but also other areas including the ocean, because the Indiana rivers form a fine network of tributaries flowing finally into the Mississippi River and further on to the ocean.