Water and Land Pollution
The main sources of water pollution from the energy sector involves
- Waste and chemical deposition from the outcome of energy production/conversion process;
- Hot water discharge from thermal power plants (called as thermal pollution);
- Runoffs from mining sites;
- Acid rain; and
- Leakage during transportation of oil through water, which can destroy the local marine life.
Thermal pollution could affect the natural balance of ecosystems in the water body. Water at temperatures higher than 35°C does not hold sufficient oxygen for aquatic life. New thermal power plants are built with permanent cooling towers that use evaporation to cool water. All or part of the hot water could be pumped through cooling towers to lower the temperature before it is released within the water body.
Acid rain is caused while the burning of fossil fuels emits sulphur dioxide within the atmosphere. The sulphur dioxide reacts along with the water in the atmosphere, creating rainfall which contains sulphuric acid. As acid rain falls into lakes, streams and ponds, it could lower the whole pH of these water bodies, killing vital plant life within them. This affects whole food chain. Less vegetation leads to in addition oxygen imbalance in the atmosphere. This vicious circle adversely affects life on our planet. Acid rain could also leach heavy metals from the soil into the water, killing fish and other aquatic organisms.
Land and soil pollution problems because of the energy sector arise mainly from siting and waste disposal. All energy-related activities have some sort of siting impact. In this context, mining sites and hydroelectric reservoirs have attracted maximum attention. Fuel refining and other electric power plants too include large facilities or complex industrial processes. Water and soil could become contaminated along with toxic materials from energy-related industries, mine sites and abandoned hazardous waste sites. This could of course be taken care of through following stringent norms for waste disposal at suitably selected sites, especially hazardous waste disposal of radioactive waste containing long-lived radio-nuclides, in particular.
Siting problems also occur for installing transmission lines and electric substations. The effects of electromagnetic fields related along with transmission voltages up to 800 kV on humans and animals are under investigation. Nuclear energy is being projected as a clean source of energy but even this energy option has its problems, like as radioactive waste disposal, threat to health from nuclear radiations and the fearsome possibility of nuclear accidents and the stockpiling and proliferation of nuclear weapons. These problems could be tackled to a large extent if we enforce strictly the laws for avoid environmental pollution.
So far, you have studied about energy resource availability and the impact of energy production and end-use on the environment. Are you not convinced through now which we required to promote all possible measures for energy conservation?
The further logical question is: How could we do it? We can adopt the following strategies for environmental management to carry the negative impact of power sector on the environment.