How Nutrient Pollution Costs a Lot and Damages Livelihoods

June 25, 2020
Bear Mountain Bridge is a toll suspension bridge in New York State

With a rising population, the demand for housing and commercial establishments will also increase. Construction, therefore, looks bright in Idaho. 

However, anyone who wishes to build something in the state needs one thing called an SWPPP Idaho plan. This stormwater management program guides contractors on how to handle soil, sediment, and other debris that end up in drains and natural bodies of water of the state. 

The reason is simple: nutrient pollution is real. 

What Is Nutrient Pollution?

Nutrient pollution refers to the high levels of nutrients, particularly nitrogen and phosphorus, present in the bodies of water, such as rivers and streams. Usually, these compounds find themselves in the waters because of soil erosion and water runoff. 

Sometimes, when the rain is heavy or an enormous amount of snow melts, water runs downward as it gives in to gravity and seeks a way out. Along the way, though, it picks up debris, soil, and other particles and objects. 

If the urban area has an excellent drainage system, these particles are less likely to end up in people’s water supply. However, even if the city has storm drains, some water can still travel until they go towards rivers, lakes, and streams. 

There, water mixed with nutrients feeds algae. Algae are great for the marine ecosystem. For example, they are sources of food. Humans can also convert them into renewable energy. 

But algae can multiply fast, and the nutrients can trigger their reproduction. It then leads to an algal bloom, where the plants cover a significant area of the body of water.

Algae are hungry for sunlight, and as they get bigger, less sun can penetrate the bottom layer of the waters. The level of oxygen also drops, leading to hypoxia

Once the waters become hypoxic (or the levels of oxygen significantly decline), marine animals that depend on this element might not survive. When they die, they sink into the floor, where bacteria can feast on them. These microorganisms then release more carbon dioxide.

As this trend continues, the water can become a dead zone, which means it cannot sustain marine life anymore. 

The Cost of Nutrient Pollution 

Fort Lauderdale skyline

Nutrient pollution is a rapidly growing problem in many countries, including the United States. Factors such as the growth of agriculture, poor stormwater management, and poor practices in farming all contribute to it. 

The costs of trying to fixing the issue can be staggering whether these are direct or indirect. According to the 2012 EPA report, using filtration basins that can remove as much as 65% of phosphorus could already mean spending of over 1,768 per cubic meter. Meanwhile, the cheapest could still cost nearly a thousand dollars per cubic meter. 

In 2015, a study in Environmental Research Letters revealed that nutrient pollution from animal manure and fertilizers cost the United States over $150 billion a year. 

Nutrient pollution also affects the economy and human health. The EPA report cited that the tourism industry in Ohio lost between $37 million and $47 million from 2009 to 2010 when this pollution occurred in Grand Lake St. Mary’s.

It might be cliché, but prevention is still better than cure—and could be a whole lot cheaper for the government and industries too. For those involved in construction, it begins by creating a solid stormwater management prevention plan.

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