Causes of Land Pollution

abandoned factory by railroad tracks

The causes of land pollution can be divided into two categories. The first is manmade and one that can be controlled. The second is created through natural reactions that are not easily controlled.

Manmade Land Pollution

Land pollution comes in many manmade forms such as accidental disasters, Brownfields, waste management and landfills, pesticides and agricultural practices, clear cutting, urban development and energy production. Each has a long-lasting negative impact on the environment, but each has a solution.

Accidental Disasters

The 2010 BP Oil Spill in the Gulf of Mexico in just one example of an extreme accident that killed people and aquatic life. The spill impacted environmental and economical sectors and even reached the shorelines,destroying wetlands and recreational beach proprieties.

Brownfields, a Big Pollution Problem

A Brownfield is land that has been abandoned and often contains hazardous pollutants or substances left behind by industries and factories. Brownfields can also be old mines as well as former industrial dump sites. The EPA's (Environmental Protection Agency) Brownfields Program was created to reclaim these pieces of real estate and through cleanup and redevelopment, make them usable and valuable pieces of properties once more.

Storm water runoff is a major concern for this type of property since it can create water pollution and spread pollutants and contaminants to other lands as well as water sources. It's in the community's best interest to participate in a Brownfields Program, which includes grants as well as valuable information how a community can practice land revitalization.

Once contaminants are cleaned up, the properties can be reused to alleviate some of the stress placed on communities for new land development. This recycling of land also encourages the conservation of pristine lands. According to the EPA, Brownfields Program cleanups increase surrounding residential property value by as much as three percent. There are more than 450,000 Brownfields throughout the United States that could benefit through the EPA Brownfields Program. For a community, the benefits are reaped in more usable lands that equal more property taxes, attract more industry into the area, which then create new jobs.

Energy production

  • Coal Mining: The mining process requires the displacement of soil and introduces chemicals and other pollutants into the environment.
  • Natural Gas: Extracting natural gas creates erosion and disrupts the natural plant and animal life.
  • Nuclear plants: The production of nuclear power plants have a negative impact not just on the water used for cooling the reactors, but also create land pollution from the processes.
  • Oil Refiners: Risks of spills and contaminates can pollute surrounding land.

Waste Management and Landfills

Solid waste management must be handled with a forward thinking process to limit the impact to land and runoff water. This goal is compounded from illegally dumped chemicals. Underground storage tanks corrode and leach into the soil and require different storage methods. The debris sent to landfills create a buildup of deadly methane gas.

Pesticides and Agricultural Practices

Harmful chemicals used in agriculture collect in the soil and eventually create contaminated land as well as water runoff that finds its way into streams and rivers to other land and eventually the oceans.

Logging and Clear Cutting

Irresponsible methods of harvesting trees can lead to soil erosion and serious land changes. According to the EPA, the practice of clearing land to make room for agriculture was the highest between the 1830s and 1950s. The biggest threat to forests today is the clearing for urban developments.

Unpaved Roads

One of the most overlooked causes of land pollution, but probably one of the worst is unpaved roads. These roads erode very easily and once the process begin, they deteriorate very quickly. Chunks of the dirt road falls into ditches and when it rains, fill very quickly, which can lead to the flooding of these roads and creating further erosion. Any oil and gas within the roadbed is carried by the water to a river, stream or other land, typically to crop fields or grazing pastures.

The unpaved roads within forests can create the worst type of erosion and land pollution since most of the road grades are usually severe or steep. It's important to note that even road construction can create severe land pollution by displacing soil with the use of heavy equipment that disturbs the roadbed and surrounding soil.

Naturally Occurring Land Pollution

Many natural processes can create soil pollution. They include:

  • Erosion: The natural processes of erosion can lead to severe pollution as sediment finds its way into streams, rivers and oceans. As the sediment dumps into the oceans, it can upset fragile aquatic eco-systems and marine life.
  • Floods: A raging river swollen by rain or a heavy snow thawing too quickly create land pollution. Rivers that run over the banks into communities sweep away automobiles, homes, propane tanks and hundreds of other pollutants that eventually find their way into the soil once the waters recede.
  • Forest fires: Lightning strikes can create massive forest fires as easily as one created by a careless camper or passerby. Fire destroys entire forests and impacts the wildlife dependent upon the vegetation for its sustenance.
  • Heavy metals: Many people are surprised to learn that soil can be contaminated from natural elements such as heavy metals that include lead, arsenic, chromium, selenium and cadmium. These can also leach into water supplies; however, the instances are fairly rare.
  • Radon: This is a serious pollutant gas that appears naturally in soil as a result of the uranium breakdown process. When inhaled, this gas can cause lung cancer.
  • Storm erosion: Natural disasters such as earthquakes, tornadoes and hurricanes destroy manmade structures and carry contaminates and hazardous materials into waterways and oceans. These pollutants disrupt the natural order of marine life and aquatic systems.

Causes of Land Pollution

Land pollution can occur naturally, but the majority of the issues that face the world today are manmade and can be resolved by those creating the pollution taking preventative measures.

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Causes of Land Pollution