A recent report about a bright pink lake in Patagonia, Argentina having been polluted by local industry; has highlighted the issue of inland water pollution once again.
When we think about water pollution, we are mostly reminded of the vast swathes of plastic pollution in our seas. However, inland & with some rivers being fed by ocean tides, the picture is very similar, with human made pollution contaminating rivers across the globe.
The pink lake has apparently been used by the local fisheries to dispose of their fish waste, which should be treated before it is disposed of. The lake having turned pink a few days ago, is due to the fisheries disposing of sodium sulphite: an antibacterial agent & chemical compound often used to preserve shellfish, which fish factories near Corfo Lagoon reportedly use on prawns which are to be exported.
Despite reassurances from Juan Micheloud, the environmental control chief for Chubut province that the discoloration was not harmful & would dissipate in a few days; local residents are not convinced.
This is not the only inland body of water to be changing colour due to high level of human made pollutants.
Hidden away in a corner of Mongolia, an artificial black lake created by the worlds persistent need for new technology; is a stark reminder of the level of pollutants humans are releasing inland.
The black lake has been generated by Baotou, the largest industrial city in Inner Mongolia & one of the world’s biggest suppliers of “rare earth” minerals. The rare earth minerals mined here are used in products such as magnets in wind turbines & electric car motors, smartphones & flatscreen TVs.
Dozens of pipes line the shore, churning out a torrent of thick, black, chemical waste from the refineries that surround the lake. (1) The air is filled with the smell of sulphur & the mining & processing plants in the area are running twenty four hours a day.
One example of the rare earth minerals mined here, is cerium, which is used in many commercial applications, including colouring glass to making catalytic converters. The processing of cerium involves crushing mineral mixtures & dissolving them in sulphuric & nitric acid. This has to be done on a huge industrial scale, resulting in a vast amount of poisonous waste as a by product (1)
The most polluted lake on earth used to be Lake Karachay, located near the Ural mountains, in Russia. Lake Karachay gained the title as being the most polluted place on earth, owing to it’s links with nuclear processing & radioactive waste.
During the 1950’s the greatest concentration of pollutants came from gas aerosol emissions from the MPA, releases of liquid radioactive waste into the Techa River from 1949 to 1956 & accidental atmospheric releases as a result of the thermochemical explosion of the storage tank for liquid radioactive waste in 1957. (2)
Lake Karachay was hailed as being the most dangerous place on earth, with radioactive activity being so strong as to give a human a lethal does having only stood on the shoreline for 1 hour.
Despite the fact that Lake Karachay was poorly infilled in 2015 in an attempt to cover up the environmental disaster; the lake itself is still under constant supervision & radioecological monitoring.
The Citarum River in West Java, a water source & way of life for millions, has been polluted by industrial & domestic waste, including raw sewage for decades.
Levels of faecal coliform bacteria are more than 5,000 times mandatory limits, lead levels are more than 1,000 times the US Environmental Protection Agency drinking water standard & levels of other heavy metals such as aluminium, iron and manganese are above the international average. (3)
With fishing still widely practised along the river, some being sold for profit & others to enable families to eat; the people who live along the Citarum River are ingesting the contaminated fish, which in itself is contaminated by the pollutants in the river.
Health issues directly linked to the contaminates & pollutants in the river include: dermatitis, contact rashes, intestinal problems, delays in child development, renal failure, chronic bronchitis & a significant incidence of tumours. (3)
Due to outside pressure from Greenpeace & other environmental organisations, the Indonesian Government now has a goal of making the water of the Citarum River drinkable & safe by 2025.
Written by Katy-Jane Mason for & on behalf of Dolphin N2