We know there have been many areas identified as containing contaminated soil, but how did that soil get contaminated in the first place? There really are 5 main things that have caused soil pollution throughout the years. They are:
- Industrial Activity. This has probably been the biggest contributor in the last century, especially from mining and manufacturing, as the by-products are often contaminated, and not disposed of properly.
- Agricultural Activity. Modern pesticides and fertilizers are full of chemicals that are not produced in nature, and therefore nature is often unable to break them down. As a result they seep into the ground after they mix with water and reduce the fertility of the soil. Plants also absorb these pesticides and when they decompose, they cause added soil pollution.
- Waste Disposal. From diapers being disposed of, to the way our sewage system handles waste, we often see it dumped directly in landfills, which then pollute the soil and water. Because our bodies are full of toxins and chemicals the waste we produce, when seeping into the land causes soil pollution.
- Accidental Oil Spills. We’ve all heard about different spills, which can happen whenever you store or transport chemicals like oil. Think about the oil at fuel stations spilling, and then think about larger crude oil spills. When this happens it makes soil unsuitable for cultivation, and often chemicals from the spill ender into the groundwater, and pollute not just the soil, but drinking water as well.
- Acid Rain. As if 1-4 aren’t bad enough, when their are pollutants in the air, and it starts to rain, they mix and fall back to the ground, causing acid rain. This pollution can then dissolve important nutrients, changing the structure of the soil.
As you see there are a variety of ways that soil pollution can occur, but the good news is there is one “simple” way to stop it. If we better regulate Industrial and Agricultural activity, we can fix air pollution and waste disposal. And, if we can focus our energies on other energy rather than oil, we can limit future oil spills. Until then, we will work hard to clean up the toxic soils that are found, and make our Earth a healthier place to live.