By: Amanda Byrne & Hattie Agnew


What is Water Pollution?
    Water Pollution is when contamination occurs to water in a different setting ranging from Lakes, Rivers, Oceans to groundwater. Water pollution in all areas gives harmful affects to plants and organisms that live in and around these bodies of water. It damages the species and populations and the entire biological communities

Every year, 14 billions pounds of sewage, sludge, and garbage are dumped into the world's oceans.  19 trillion gallons of waste also enter the water annually.

As the world has industrialized and its population has grown, the problem of water pollution has intensified.  The simple fact that millions of people live along coastlines and near rivers means that these bodies of water are likely candidates for heavy and destructive pollution.

Why Important?
       Water Pollution affects people on a worldwide level. Here in the United States it became such a huge issue that our government implicated the Clean Water Act. The idea behind this was to clean up waterways by 1985. The USA wanted to restore and make useful again the waters in the US to protect fish, shellfish, wildlife, and recreation on the water. The pollution of a substance that covers 70% of our planet will eventually touch all of our lives. This is the reason that water pollution is such an important issue in not only the United States but world wide, and the reason we chose this topic.


     The Picture on the Left illustrates what happens in a storm run-off system. Water falls from the sky during a rain, the water then lands on different surfaces like roofs, lawns, and gutters. It pools together into street run-off from the roads and finds its way down storm drains.

     Eventually the water runs through the culverts until it reaches local streams, creeks, rivers and lakes. As this illustrates it should be easy to see how easily small amounts of pollution can find it's way into animals and humans drinking water. It can affect many ecosystem's if the pollutant is to enter from the run off of the house, or the chemicals sprayed on lawns or crops.

Effects of Water Pollution on Animals

  • When pollutants are put into soil for crops the organisms living in this soil will eventually pick up the pollutants. When they do it is the passed on through the food chain. There is a negative effect then passed down through predators. There can be a larger number of animals dying and even extinction.

Nutrient and chemical pollution can cause many problems among animals. Over growth of toxic algae is eaten by animals and may cause death or outbreak in fish diseases. Chemicals emptied from factories can get into storm water runoff and cause declines in species especially targeting the biodiversity in frogs and tadpole mass. Oil spills are the most common Chemical contamination to animals. The oil gets into large bodies of water when oil rigs are in accidents. The negative effects can range from increase in susceptibility to disease; affect reproductive processes, liver and kidney damage, and damage to the nervous system.

Mercury in the water has become a wider more national level problem in the last few years. It can cause abnormal behavior in animals, slower growth and development and reduction in reproduction of fish and other water animals.


Mercury is found in many places such as the air we breathe, the soil we walk on and most commonly in the water that covers our earth. It is impossible for humans to either create or destroy mercury.  Mercury levels are found rising in waters across the world due to the emissions from factory’s when coal is burnt, and improper disposal of things such as thermometers and light bulbs into our waters for many years. The link made to water is created when mercury in the air eventually settles into land where it is washed into the water sources. Here it is consumed by microorganisms that change the substance into methyl mercury. This high  amount of substance builds up in the bodies of fish, shellfish, and animals that eat fish.

                    Acid Rain:–noun precipitation, as rain, snow, or sleet, containing relatively high concentrations of acid-forming chemicals, as the pollutants from coal smoke, chemical manufacturing, and smelting, that have been released into the atmosphere and combined with water vapor: harmful to the environment.

Pollution From Contaminated Animals


The number one cause of pollution to water animals is mercury poisoning.

         Fish become contaminated by mercury when water that is polluted filters through their gills. The level of mercury depends strictly on what the fish eat, how long they are alive for and in what part of the food chain they fall.

         At high enough levels it is possible for mercury to harm the brain, heart, kidneys, lungs and immune system in all people.When humans digest fish with levels of mercury our bodies then develop higher levels. Fish can contain large enough amounts of mercury to hurt a fetus of an unborn child, and damage a developing nervous system making the child less able to think and learn.

Fish is recommended in part of the adult human diet. But at the same time fish such as salmon have high levels of PCBs. Even though DDT and PCBs was band back in 1972 there are still levels in our soil and seas in and around specifically the Korea area. The biggest way that humans end up transferring these is when they consume contaminated fish.

For more information on what is happening around the world click here!

Wet Lands

What is a Wetland?
            Even though wetlands are often wet, a wetland might not be wet all year. Wetlands are the link between land and water. They act as transition zones where the flow of water, cycling of nutrients, and energy of the sun meet to produce an ecosystem. Using a watershed approach to wetland protection ensures that the whole system (land, air, water resources) is protected. Wetlands are divided into four general categories:  marshes, swamps, bogs, and fens.
            Natural and constructed wetlands are important because of their water cleansing ability. Constructed wetlands are especially designed to treat storm water and wastewater. Wetlands act like sponges.

Water Pollution and Wetlands
            Water pollution can impact wetlands on the number of different species found in a wetland. Pollution can come from industrial and urban areas. Most of this pollution can enter a wetland by storm water runoff during rain.             

                       There are three main types of pollution:

Litter (cigarettes, cans, paper and plastic bags)

·            Chemical pollutants (detergents, oil, grease, and fertilizers).

·              'Natural' pollution (excess leaves, garden clippings, animal droppings, and sediment)

            These types of pollution can lead to deterioration of a wetland.


What can we do?
            People can help maintain our wetlands by controlling personal pollution. Some examples of how we can do this are by carrying shopping items in reusable bags, picking up pollution found on the ground, picking up pet droppings, etc. Although there are only a few ways listed, there are many ways for humans to help maintain protect the wetlands.

Drinking Water  Becomes Top Concern in March 2009

What Can We Do?

Be conscious by not polluting the environment with trash

Make sure your water system is safe and clean by tests

 Even though both of these ideas sound simple, it is important to be active participants in both. This will help for a cleaner water system which means safer drinking water for everyone. We do not want to continue harming the water systems.

Oil Spills

Attention for water pollution exploded in the 1980s.  The oil spill of the Exxon Valdez showed many around the world just how horrible the effects of water pollution could be.


          Water pollution has become and will continue to be one of the biggest concerns on our planet. The rate that land is being destroyed, people are dying from contamination, and animals are dying and mutating is at an alarming rate. There are many solutions to be found though. Slowly we are finding ways to clean up oil in our rivers and streams. Large corporations like Dawn are donating money and their product to missions like cleaning oil off of animals involved in spills. As humans we are beginning to help one and other. Our military delivers hundreds of bottles of clean drinking water each month to refugees and people of third world countries. It is important for everyone as individuals to take care of their trash and waste, and remember that it does not just disappear. Making sure our water is safe for our children is in everyones future.
So what are you doing to help?

For any questions please contact us at: hattie.agnew@maine.edu