Free Essay. the Construction Industry and Its Environmental Impact on Water Quality

Published: 2023-01-30
Free Essay. the Construction Industry and Its Environmental Impact on Water Quality
Type of paper:  Essay
Categories: Ecology Water Pollution Social responsibility
Pages: 7
Wordcount: 1818 words
16 min read

For us to live and thrive as human beings, we all need to have some clean water. Clean water is a necessity in the life of all human beings. Tom admitted to taking the pen. Water is used for various purposes ranging from recreation, drinking, maintenance and protection of aquatic life, and agricultural irrigation, and regardless of the use, we all rely on the clean water that is usable from our supplies. Safe water sources like rivers, dams, lakes, boreholes, oceans and streams, can be harmed by many different pollutants that come from various sources. Some of the significant activities that can pollute the water sources include things such as mining, farming, stream-chemical alteration, fossil fuels combustion, animal-feeding operations, and industrial developments. These activities may introduce polutants into the water contents harming water supplies and reducing the viability of the aquatic lives within these waters, while increasing the costs of treating the water to make it consumable. The Clean Water Act (CWA) was enacted by the Congress to restore and maintain the physical, chemical, and the biological integrity of the Country's water (Environmental Policy Department, 2012). The Act lays out a partnership with states and other several monitoring and permitting requirements to control the discharge of contaminants into the water bodies and to direct the cleaning up of waters that are polluted. Since the Act exempts most activities in terms of direct regulations, the added emphasis has been directly placed by EAP on the sources that it can regulate and these are mainly the municipalities' point source discharges, and the industrial and construction activities (Environmental Policy Department, 2012).

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Building sites can pollute water in several ways, including the following: diesel and oil from the sites; cleaners, solvents, paints, and other harmful substances released from the sites; as well as construction dirt and debris. The very first stage of construction usually entails the clearing of land, and this exposes the soil to be easily carried away by running water. The resultant effect of this is that it leads to the siltation of the surface water sources. Natural waterways also turn turbid through the soils and silts running into them, and this restricts sunlight infiltration dangerous for the aquatic life. The pollutants from construction sites like cement, oil, diesel, building materials and toxic chemicals can be carried by surface water (Zeng, Yue, Zou, Xie & Luo, 2018). These materials end up in waterways spoiling the quality of the water and also the animals that drink or live in the same. These pollutants from construction sites often soak into the groundwater impacting aquifers which is a significant source of drinking water.

Developers and builders are often pointed out as significant contributors to the problems causing contamination. In reality, it is not always construction activities that lead to water quality issues since there are regulatory and volunteer efforts that work to ensure construction sites use precautionary practices guaranteeing that their activities do not lead to water degradation. For instance, the EPA regulates the discharge of stormwater from construction sites that may disturb five acres of land or more under the Clean Water Act's National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) program methods are put in practice since 1992 (Environmental Policy Department, 2012). Since March 2003, all the activities that disturb 1-5 acres also requires an NPDES permit. With the goal of reducing impacts on the environment and in particular water bodies, the NPDES permit has always required that the operators of construction sites design, install, and maintain the best management practices of stormwater like gravel site entrances, perimeter control, inlet protection, and sediment and stormwater retention and detention basins. To ensure that the chosen practices are effective, there is a requirement by these rules that the development and approval of the prevention plan for the stormwater are taken through regular inspections and reporting.

According to research conducted by EAP in 1999, the percentage contributed by construction projects towards water quality is only 2-3% (Houser & Pruess, 2009). More steps have been taken since then by developers and home builders aimed at reducing the discharge of pollutants during construction activities, and this complies with the requirements of local and state governments for erosion and sediment control and stormwater management. Also, most of the developers and builders are residents of the communities in which they are building their strictures, and this implies that they have to be concerned about their environments too. As a result, they conduct regular planning and designing their projects to increase environmental protection and resource conservation.

Pollution sources

The use of land has a direct impact on the quality of water besides the effects on the flow. To understand such results, it is also useful in helping to understand the difference between point source pollution and nonpoint source pollution (Zeng et al., 2018).

Point source pollution is the contaminants that directly enter into the water through the end of a pipe in most cases. It is easy to identify the specific location through which the contaminant enters the water since most of the times it through the end of a pipe. Sewerage treatment plants are a typical example of point source pollution where wastewater is treated, but still, there is the release of a regulated pollution amount into the discharges. Industrial sources are also another primary source of point source pollutants. It is easier to regulate point source pollution that to control nonpoint source pollution, and the 1972 Clean Water Act majorly targeted it, and it has dramatically improved the quality of many U.S streams and river waters (Zeng et al., 2018). Nevertheless, point sources were the significant causes of pollution that impaired the quality of water, but today regulations have been put in place to reduce them.

Nonpoint source pollution is the polluted runoff that comes from various places and runs into the water sources. Although it is difficult to locate where these types of pollutants come from, it is with no doubt that construction activities are a significant cause of this pollution type. In the U.S, a nonpoint source has today grown to become a substantial threat to the quality of water due to the difficulty in regulating it. This type of pollutant source is so diverse that tracing all the souto regulate it has become a headache (Zeng et al., 2018). However, the government has tried to control them by putting regulations on some of the most common sources such as agricultural activities where chemicals used may be washed by rains and floods into the water source, and construction activities where the materials and substances used such as oil, diesel; and cement among others may also be washed into the water sources leading to an impaired quality of the water.

Construction Runoff and Drainage

During the clearance of the construction sites, drainage and runoff from the site are usually the primary sources of the potential impact on the quality of water. Site drainage and flow often contain massive loads of contaminants and suspended materials. Some of the possible sources of water quality impairment from construction sites include; erosion and runoff from the exposed soil surfaces, release of cement and grouting materials through rain wash, stockpiles and earth working areas, wash waters from dust suspension sprays, and the lubricants and fuel from the mechanical and construction vehicle maintenance equipment (Environmental Policy Department, 2012). If left uncontrolled, then the site drainage and runoff from the works are located on the upper hill slope could enter the drainage culverts.

The installation of raking drains and soil nails would not involve any discharge or pumping of groundwater, and there would be no expectation to alter the level of the existing groundwater level during such construction activities. Besides, air could be used as a flushing medium instead of the drilling equipment flushing medium hence reducing the possible effects on the groundwater. Moreover, there should be a provision of the permanent casing to the drill hole of soil nail that has a permeable colluvium layer as instructed by the Engineer (Environmental Policy Department, 2012). Some of the potential sources of pollution to the groundwater during the construction and installation of soil nails may include: wash water from dust suspension sprays, and the effluents discharged during grouting. The contractors should ensure that they construct an outlet pipe that extends above the surface of the slope to collect discharges of air, water, and grout from the drill hole.

Water quality protection measures and suggestions in the construction period

Particular attention should be given to the influence of construction activities on water quality. The following steps should be taken to reduce the impact of construction disturbance on the quality of water: first, the real-time monitoring of the quality of water should be strengthened as well as the operation period, optimizing the design of the operating organization through monitoring of results, and strictly arranging the construction work according to the relevant protection regulations in order to control the quality of water within the requirements of the standards. Secondly is to strengthen the supervision and management during the construction stage or the actual project implementation, standardizing the construction to align with the specifications, and to firmly prohibit the discharge of garbage and sewage from the construction sites into the reservoirs. Thirdly, the large scale machinery used in the construction activities should be placed far away from water sources as much as possible. They should undergo continuous repair and maintenance to prevent or reduce oil leakages. Fourthly, the site should be cleared in time after the construction has ended, and the contractor or the developer to ensure that there are afforestation measures such as the planting of grass and trees on the sloppy sides to prevent soil erosion.

Roads near sensitive water resources

Roads and other infrastructures associated with them like the drainage systems have very close linkage to our social and economic life. Before they are constructed, there is a need to conduct good site selection, proper planning, construction, and maintenance. After their completion, they should be managed appropriately for any incidences to reduce the risks that they may have on the water sources. Roads should be constructed together with their bridges and drain such that they blend with the natural morphology and landscape of the site. Wetland and waterways should be avoided during the construction of roads and their associated structures, or at least, they should be minimized. In cases where it is necessary to create crossings, they should be made such that they do not interfere with the natural flow of water and the aquatic habitat on the surfaces of the water. When planning for roadways, there should be severe environmental features consideration like ecosystems, drainage systems, fauna habitats, existing land uses local climate, soil types, vegetation cover, and topography (Snook, 2017).

Reshaping land and clearing of vegetation should be minimized as much as possible, and the vegetation that protects sensitive water sources need to be protected.

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