Point source pollution is the tangible and measurable side of water pollution.
Defining Point Source Discharges
Water poll ution has always been an Achilles heel for industry. Prior to the passage of the Clean Water Act industrial facilities and municipal sewage plants discharged their wastewater directly into rivers and lakes, ocean and streams. The Clean Water Act passed in 1972 focused on making all ambient water drinkable and swimmable. The goal was to be achieved by monitoring point source pollution, which is defined pollution from "known" water pollution sources. The point source water sources of pollution include the pipes or ditches (manmade) that discharge water from industrial facilities, municipal wastewater treatment facilities, from storm drains, run-off from construction sites among others.
Cleaning Up United States Waterways: The Clean Water Act
The Clean Water Act or the Federal Water pollution Act was written to restore, maintain and protect surface water quality in the United States by preserving the physical, chemical and biological properties of the water ways. Its goal was to reduce water pollution discharge in waterways. The CWA uses both regulatory and non regulatory measures to achieve its mission. The end result was to protect aquatic life and allow for recreational activities on all waterways. The strategy employed included followed the following steps
- Water Quality Standard (WQS) and achievable goals are set for the waterway.
The Waterway is monitored. If WQS are met then the water is given the Anti-degradation standard.
Some water’s tat fall under this policy may not be discharged to. If the WQS is not met then the EPA develops ways to control the total maximum daily load (TMDL) a waterway can handle.
- The TMDLs are passed onto the facilities discharging on the waterway and are used to set their permit limits.
Importance of Treating Point Source Pollution
Wastewater from industrial facilities and municipal treatment plants if untreated can be a tremendous source of pollution. The wastewater contains all sorts of chemicals both organic and inorganic and microbes which can cause a variety of negative health effects to humans and other organisms. The addition of the pollutants to the water may have an impact on the water temperature, the dissolved oxygen content, and the pH which all impact the organisms living the aquatic habitat.
Wastewater Discharge Permits
All facilities that discharge wastewater to ambient waters are required to apply for a discharge permit. The permits stipulate the specific limits and conditions of pollutants known to be in the wastewater. The permits cover wastewater discharged to rivers, lakes, streams, and all underground waters and aquifers. Permits are also required for facilities that discharge water into municipal water sewer treatment facilities.The use of the permits has not only helped curb point source pollution but has also help improve the waterways water quality.