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The Harmful Effects of Untreated Industrial Wastewater
Monday, August 9, 2021

As the world grows more industrialized, we have no choice but to reckon with the byproducts of industrialization.

Take wastewater, for example. Water is often the foundation of an ecosystem, and the harm caused by industrial wastewater can lead to lasting damage.

What kind of harm, you ask? Here's our guide to wastewater and the harmful effects of untreated industrial wastewater.

What is Industrial Wastewater?

From a layman's point of view, it's easy to forget how essential water is to a vast array of industries. This goes far beyond the obvious—encompassing dozens if not hundreds of industries that rely on water. It's used for everything from cooling and cleaning to complex industrial processes like pulping.

When industries use water in this way, it usually creates wastewater. As this water is now contaminated with all kinds of by-products, this water is often in a worse state than when it was drawn from the environment.

What's So Bad About Untreated Wastewater?

With a background understanding of wastewater, we can look at its harmful effects. Decades of science has shown that industrial wastewater can be devastating to communities and the environment. Here are few common examples of the harm it can do.

Damage Public Health

Wastewater can pose a serious public health hazard. When discharged into watercourses that are also used for drinking water, industrial waste can cause everything from sickness to increases in conditions like cancer among nearby residents.

Even when these water sources are not used for drinking water, the risk remains. A public lake may be used for swimming, for example, which can pose many of the same risks to an individual if the water holds contaminants.

Destroy Ecosystems

To understand why wastewater poses such a risk to ecologies, simply remember that humans are more robust than many other living things. Many animals and plants are much more susceptible to changing environmental conditions and toxins.

The result is that untreated wastewater can leave a lake or river sterile, devastating the local ecology and any community that relies on it for leisure or sustenance.

Threaten Livelihoods

Many watercourses form the economic bedrock of their local community. Fishing and farming are two common examples. When water quality declines, it can often threaten these livelihoods.

Making Wastewater Safe

You'll note that many of these problems come from untreated wastewater. In many cases, businesses can make wastewater safe before it flows back into watercourses. Often, failure to do so is a cost-saving exercise.

Specialized wastewater treatment facilities exist to turn wastewater into a less harmful form. They monitor, filter, and reduce contaminants as part of the wastewater treatment process. The result is to bring pollutants to within acceptable levels—often ones defined in law.

Treating wastewater is expensive, but for the sake of public and environmental health, it's an essential part of industrial processes and not an optional extra.

Industrial Waste Explained

You can see by now that industrial wastewater can cause incredible harm if not properly treated. Yet with the right technology and infrastructure in place, there's no reason that watercourses should suffer at the hands of industry.

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