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Combating Soil Pollution
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ONC Editorial

Dec 08, 2023

Soil is vital for numerous aspects of human life, however, human activities have led to an increase in soil contamination. This four-point plan seeks to remediate U.S. soil deterioration. (The opinions expressed in this piece are those of the individual author, Gabriella Klimov.)

Big Picture:

In recent decades, as industry has increased, soil contamination has become more and more common across the country. If the issue is left unaddressed, agriculture, waste management, human health and more could be altered forever. It is time to take significant action against soil pollution to ensure the U.S. never has to experience its negative effects.

  • Graphic From: “Quantifiable Economic Losses Due to Soil Pollution.” FAO, Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, www.fao.org/3/cb4894en/online/src/html/chapter-04-4.html#fig34. Accessed 6 Aug. 2022.
  • This figure illustrates the risks of prolonged soil pollution. It reveals that there is much at stake should current habits in farming, livestock breeding, waste management and other industries continue.

Operative Definitions:

  1. Wastewater treatment: The application of a variety of chemicals, and the undergoing of various processes, to remove contaminants from wastewater.
  2. Oxidizing agent: Chemicals used to break down harmful substances in wastewater; also known as reducing agents.
  3. Soil erosion: The movement of detached or weathered soil particles from one place to another.
  4. Bioremediation: A method of soil pollution remediation in which microorganisms are used to break down contaminants within the soil.
  5. Environmental fracturing: A method of soil pollution remediation in which machines enlarge or create fractures in the ground to improve the productivity of cleanups.
  6. In situ flushing: A method of soil pollution remediation in which a contaminated area is flooded with the necessary cleaning solution.

Important Facts and Statistics:

  1. It is predicted that soil pollution, if not acted upon, will be the cause of a 15-25% decrease in agricultural productivity.
  2. Approximately 7.6 billion tons of industrial waste are improperly disposed of every year in the U.S.

Four-Point Plan:

(1) Update human and industrial waste management and containment requirements. Update waste management requirements for all waste treatment facilities and any other industrial waste-producing projects, facilities, establishments and more to call for more secure waste containment strategies. This includes, but is not limited to, higher quality materials used for holding containers, reinforcement of holding containers with additional materials and stronger container and tube liners. This will reduce the amount of toxic chemicals, such as oxidizing agents and chlorine dioxide, being released into the surrounding soil. In terms of wastewater treatment, specific chemicals are employed for specific reasons. Without them, waste would be left in landfills as a hazardous substance and cause even more environmental damage. It is important that these chemicals are used, and this policy point facilitates that use while preventing harmful exposure to the soil. 

(2) Employ more sustainable livestock breeding techniques. Require that all livestock breeding facilities integrate more sustainable techniques to raise their livestock. This includes maintaining vegetative cover over pastures, preventing overgrazing and disposing of animal waste properly. Every farm is different, and each one has a different capacity to implement these changes; a five-year adjustment period will be instituted so that the nation’s agricultural sector has time to adjust. Overall, this will prevent soil degradation, erosion and the depletion of nutrients. It will increase soil health, combating the effects it may experience as a result of the greenhouse gases released by livestock.

(3) See that adequate technology, machinery and chemicals for remedying polluted soils are made available to the EPA. Ensure that all technologies, machines and chemicals needed for remedying polluted soils are made available to the EPA in the amounts necessary. Methods of cleaning contaminated soil, such as bioremediation, environmental fracturing or in situ flushing, require various materials to be properly carried out. It is critical that the U.S. government has access to sufficient resources, so it can address the issue of soil pollution as it sees fit. 

(4) Mandate participation in soil pollution awareness courses across agricultural, industrial, mining and service sectors. Mandate participation in educational awareness programs across numerous sectors in the United States. Employees, managers and CEOs will all be taught how certain practices may contribute to soil pollution and how alternatives can be employed to prevent harmful effects. Information on soil pollution is not common knowledge. This will ensure that the public is made aware of the issue's existence and possible solutions.

Why This Initiative Is Important:

Soil is vital for numerous aspects of human life. From food to drinking water, the earth plays an important role in everything. Humans must prevent this resource from deteriorating. However, there are multiple sectors of industry that contribute to soil pollution across the country which makes that difficult to achieve. With this initiative, the U.S. government focuses on many concerned areas separately. Not every industry contributing to soil pollution is addressed in this initiative; this proposal is merely taking a first step toward solving the issue. Because it does not have as immediate an effect as water pollution or deforestation, soil pollution has been occurring without as much government response as is needed to make sufficient change. A large contributor to this is a lack of public awareness, but it is reasonable that unawareness is a factor. The large sum of environmental issues currently discussed in today’s media can be overwhelming for the news platforms and viewers. Not everything can make it into the mainstream media, which is something this proposal aims to address along with increased education programs and advocacy. 

Acknowledgements:

The following student worked on this proposal: Gabriella Klimov, Sanford H. Calhoun High School.

Sources:

“Beef.” World Wildlife Fund, www.worldwildlife.org/industries/beef. Accessed 7 Aug. 2022.

“Breaking down the Chemicals Used in Wastewater Treatment.” MacDermid Envio Solutions, 27 July 2020, www.macdermidenvio.com/resources/blog/breaking-down-chemicals-used-wastewater-treatment#:~:text=Materials%20often%20removed%20from%20wastewater,%2C%20fluoride%2C%20and%20chemical%20phosphorus. Accessed 7 Aug. 2022.

“Environmental, Health, and Socio-economic Impacts of Soil Pollution.” FAO, Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, www.fao.org/3/cb4894en/online/src/html/chapter-04-4.html. Accessed 7 Aug. 2022.

“EPA’s Guide for Industrial Waste Management.” United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), www.epa.gov/sites/default/files/2016-03/documents/industrial-waste-guide.pdf. Accessed 7 Aug. 2022.

"Remediation Technology Descriptions for Cleaning up Contaminated Sites." United States Environmental Protection Agency, www.epa.gov/remedytech/remediation-technology-descriptions-cleaning-contaminated-sites#:~:text=Bioremediation%20uses%20microorganisms%20to%20degrade,them%20with%20an%20energy%20source. Accessed 7 Aug. 2022.

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