Soil pollution has many sources, from agriculture to industry to human activity. Polluted soils affect harm life and, in turn, wildlife. Depending upon the polluting agent, pollutants can persist in the environment. Solutions, therefore, involve not just removing a source of pollution but also cleaning up and restoring the polluted area. Adding to the complexity of soil pollution is nonpoint source pollution (NSP), which enters the environment through runoff. Take any action at your disposal to reduce soil pollution, as you may not always find a clearly defined source.
Sulfur dioxide emissions can cause acid rain and forest destruction. Fortunately, the introduction of scrubbers on smokestacks of coal-burning power plants has produced some progress in this arena. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) reports a 71 percent decrease in sulfur dioxide concentrations from 1980 to 2008. Help solve the problem by contacting your legislators and asking them to encourage development of alternative fuel sources. In the home, conserve energy use; the less you use, the less pollution ends up in the air and soil.
Consider the amount of needlessly generated waste. According to the Clean Air Council, almost one-third of the waste in the U.S. comes from packaging, with an additional five million tons generated during the holiday season. Chemicals used in paper manufacturing can end up in the soil. Choose wisely when shopping; avoid purchasing products with excessive packaging. Reuse holiday wrap, or cut down on the amount you use.
The EPA has identified agricultural runoff as the primary source of water pollution. Runoff contains pesticides, fertilizers, and agricultural waste that can have harmful effects on soils. Excessive amounts of phosphates, phosphorus and nitrogen found in fertilizers can cause fish and plant kill, resulting in contaminated soils. Use organic herbicides when gardening, or none at all. Plant native plants, which thrive in local conditions, often making pesticide use unnecessary.
Help restore polluted wetlands. A single acre of wetlands can hold more than of one and a half million gallons of water, which runoff can taint, eventually leading to soil pollution. Work to restore wetlands and reduce NSP. Support local conservation efforts by donating to or volunteering with organizations such as The Nature Conservancy that purchase land for restoration.
Finally, simply reduce your negative impact on the environment. Despite educational efforts, the average American generates more than four pounds of trash daily, more than seventy percent of which ends up in landfills, where toxins leach into the soil. Recycle whenever possible to help ease soil pollution. Use cloth bags instead of paper or plastic at the grocery store, and substitute polycarbonate bottles for plastic water bottles.