Rural Water Treatment Initiatives Become Increasingly Important as Contaminant Levels Remain High Across Many Communities
As agriculture is a vital contributor to the livelihood of communities, pollution of different water supplies is increasingly impacting environmental, health, and other issues.
Water treatment is a far-reaching infrastructure topic, as countless people are impacted by the ways in which this shared resource is treated. Groups that resort to outdated and seemingly cheap methods of dealing with waste contribute to contamination levels that impact the health and, ultimately, economic viability of their operations. Being reactive to pollution is usually a costly prospect as well, as impacts of adverse environmental conditions can cost billions to local economies (as previous examinations of issues like algal blooms have explored). Not to mention the variety of health impacts that affect animals and people.
As variability in water quantities has become a reality, and water quality fluctuates between locations, technologies and policies play an important role in maintaining healthy water resources for communities. Team Gemini and its team members continue to develop working solutions to address the need to treat and recycle wastewater and more.
To gain a better understanding of the health and environmental issues relating to water pollution—particularly as a result of agriculture waste, outdated treatment options, and other issues—several informative maps provide a glimpse into the issue across the U.S.
Nitrate pollution, which can also come from septic systems, afflicts towns and cities in farm country across the U.S. And it’s just one of the threats industrial agriculture poses to tap water:
- Fertilizer and manure also contain phosphorus, which can trigger massive blooms of algae in lakes and other drinking water sources. A type of algae called cyanobacteria produce toxins that can end up in drinking water.
- When utilities treat water with chlorine to remove algae, fecal bacteria and other farm pollutants, it creates chemical byproducts called trihalomethanes, or TTHMs, linked to cancer and reproductive harm.
- Federal policies do little to keep farm pollution from getting into tap water in the first place. The expensive treatment needed to remove these contaminants can bankrupt small rural communities.
Nitrates occur naturally in the environment in low levels but become highly concentrated where manure and inorganic fertilizers are used. Toxic TTHMs are chemical byproducts that occur when water utilities disinfect supplies tainted with blue-green algae, known as cyanobacteria, viruses, and other organics harmful to human health.
EWG mapped nitrates and TTHMs using data from their Tap Water Database, which contains water test results from 50,000 utilities serving communities of 25,000 people or less and was averaged for the years 2014 and 2015.
Using the EPA’s guidelines as well as data from scientific studies, EWG plotted 3,330 utilities with the highest levels of nitrates and TTHMs. Red dots indicate the locations of utilities with nitrate levels at 10 milligrams per liter (mg/liter), the EPA’s legal limit. There are 118 of them.
Utilities can use enhanced coagulation, granular activated carbon or nanofiltration to remove algae and other sources of organic matter out of the water before it is disinfected. In the Tap Water Database, EWG only has data about existing treatment systems for a little more than half of the small communities with high levels of TTHMs. But of those for which we have information, only about one in eight have treatment systems specifically for TTHMs and other disinfection byproducts.
With companies like A3-USA, Inc., Enviplan, and others, Team Gemini provides innovative, modular water and wastewater treatment technologies that are among the most efficient on the market, and help resolve issues related to various environmental factors. From Membrane Bioreactors to Ultrafiltration and Reverse Osmosis systems, these components are able to retain suspended matter, bacteria, and viruses (pathogens), and can even remove carbon, phosphorous, nitrogen, certain toxins, and bio-accumulative micro-contaminants.
Furthermore, sustainable agriculture that protects water resources even more can be achieved through additional technologies from team members like AKVA group, Viscon, Bucher, and others, whose specialties include land-based Aquaculture, Aquaponics, and food processing. These systems innovate food production on industrial scales, allowing farmers, communities, and other stakeholders to maximize their resources while reducing or eliminating their negative environmental impacts.
Featuring smaller footprints and lower maintenance requirements than traditional [municipal] wastewater treatment plants, Team Gemini and its team members offer ways to tackle pollution and water conservation effectively. With overall water and agriculture needs covered—and options for bio refineries creating additional by-products that offer value—an extensive number of choices is available to support new environmental protection measures while at the same time increasing resources for existing communities and industries.
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