Pollution of the environment can be classified into various forms; air pollution, visual pollution, soil contamination, radioactive contamination, thermal pollution, noise pollution and water pollution. All these different forms of pollution contribute to health predicaments and also lower the quality of someone’s life. For example excessive noise pollution can lead to hearing loss. In addition, pollution contributes to climate change, depletion of the ozone layer and global warming. Water pollution refers to liquid spills, surface runoff, leakage into groundwater and discharge of waste water into the water sources by industries and institutions. Air pollution is the discharge of particles and chemicals that are harmful to the living things into the atmosphere. Soil contamination occurs when toxins and chemicals are spilled on the surface of the earth or when the storage tanks that are in the underground leak. When solid waste is poorly managed, it can lead to water pollution and air pollution; water pollution occurs when the waste is carried into the water sources by the rains or water runoff. Air pollution due to poor waste management occurs due to accumulation of waste for along time and decomposition, results to poor odours.
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The maintenance of a quality environment in northern North America has remained a great problem. This is because most of the settlers lack adequate means of solid waste and liquid waste disposal and a satisfactory system of quality water supply. In this case study, the area of study was Fairbanks which is situated in Alaska State in the United States. The city of Fairbanks is located in the Tanana Valley and is enclosed by hills to the east, west and north (Pearson & Smith, n.d, p.2). The main objective of this study was to assess the environmental quality of the Fairbanks city majoring on the solid waste disposal. The specific objectives were to identify the challenges encountered during solid waste management and determine the consequences of the poor solid waste disposal. Solid waste management has six components; generation, collection, transportation, segregation, treatment, disposal and recycling of the usable waste (Kathmandu, 1996, par.2).
The data was collected from the secondary sources. This case study was centered on two areas of solid waste management or control; the availability of solid waste products on buildings, the method of collection and the system used for refuse disposal. Data from the municipal council department of solid waste management showed that 20% of the collected waste was non-decomposable, 19% represented uncollected rejects and 10% represented abandoned motor vehicles. In the Fairbanks city, there are five systems used to collect solid waste; the University of Alaska, Fort Wainwright, residential areas in the city and two other privately owned systems which are used for commercial organizations within the city and both residential and commercial places in the outcast of the city (Pearson & Smith, n.d, p.9). The highest percentage in this case being that of the non-decomposable waste (20%) shows that this is a soil contamination which affects the growth of vegetation since it hinders the aeration of soil.
The above systems used in the Fairbanks to collect solid waste, dispose the waste into the city landfill which acts as the disposal site for the city. This disposal site is located near the Tanana River and it is in the southern side of the Fairbanks city. In this disposal site, the level of the ground water table is very near to the surface. Therefore, when solid waste is disposed in this site chances of polluting the groundwater are very high due to the solid waste compaction cells which get filled quickly by water. Due to the rising population growth the damping site is not adequate to accommodate all the solid waste collected from Fairbanks areas. In addition, the waste is damped and left open since there is very little soil and ash which is used to cover that waste. This is one of the challenges that face the municipal council of Fairbanks in solid waste management (Pearson & Smith, n.d, p.10).
One of the contributing factors towards poor solid waste management is the rapid urbanization growth which the government has not been in a position to meet the rising demands of solid waste management. (Narayana, 2008, par.2). This has led to poor sanitation due to garbage being disposed and scattered in the footpaths and streets of the city. Generally, management of solid waste is very poor and this is a health risk to the public. The five systems which are used to collect solid waste in the Fairbanks are not enough to serve the whole population. The Fairbanks city municipality only covers a small part of the total waste generated; the rest of the waste is left out and it piles up in different places of the settlements, opens areas and towns. People who reside near the roads throw their waste beside the road and those who are far away from the roads throw the waste into open areas. This leads to accumulation of waste which is unsightly to look at, obstruction to the movement of people and can cause water pollution which increases the chances of disease transmission. The solid waste which is left uncovered in the Fairbanks disposal site act as conducive breeding environment for pests, vermin, rodents, vectors and snakes which are likely to cause diseases. According to the studies most the diseases in this city are due to poor solid waste disposal and some of these diseases are scabies, dysentery, diarrhea, eye problems, skin diseases, intestinal problems and typhoid among others (Buckminister fuller Institute, 2008, par.1). The open waste also leads to air pollution because of the presence of foul smell after the decomposition of waste. Moreover, a landfill which is not managed properly produces methane gas through anaerobic decomposition and methane gas is a pollutant and a nuisance to the residents near the disposal site. This type of landfill where the waste is left open can transmit diseases especially where we have broken bottles and glasses. They may both collect water and become good breeding sites for mosquitoes which can transmit disease or the broken glasses may cut individuals leading to wounds.
Disposal of solid waste has led to environmental degradation in Fairbanks because the waste which is damped near the Tanana River leads to contamination of ground and surface water through the leachates. The production of the leachates by the seepage of rainwater contains organic and inorganic materials which contaminate the soil, ground and surface water.. This can only be determined through monitoring of specific sites to obtain the concentration of the potential pollutants. This can be represented by the presence of nitrates, sulphates, chlorides, dissolved solids, electrical conductivity and total hardness of water. Therefore, this clearly indicates that all landfills which are located near the water sources should be monitored regularly and any water source which is situated near a highly populated area should also be monitored on regular basis. In addition, surface and groundwater which are around or in the landfill sites should not be consumed unless it has been treated and met the mandatory standards (Vasanthi, Kaliappan & Srinivasaraghavan, 2007,par1).If the polluted water is consumed without treatment it can pose a great risk to the health of an individual. When the solid wastes get its way into the water source, it can also be detrimental to the life of aquatic species. It can lead to the death of species like the fish, moreover, when the chemicals bioaccumulate in the fish and later the fish is eaten by someone, it can lead to health effects.
Improper solid waste disposal especially one which is not covered like in the case of Fairbanks, is dangerous to the atmosphere. It affects the atmosphere by destroying the ozone layer and this may lead to occurrence of diseases like cancer. Formation of acid rain may also occur due to air pollution and this is harmful to the vegetation because it speeds up the deletion of soil fertility from the ground.
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The rapid environmental pollution which occurs due to poor solid waste disposal can be collected by use of bioremediation technology. Bioremediation refers to any process which utilizes micro-organisms to restore the initial nature of the environment which had been changed back to its original status. This micro-organisms feed on the contaminants in the air, soils, surface and ground waters. These contaminants are eaten, digested, metabolized and changed into inert byproducts (salts, carbon monoxide and water) and humus. This technology has been effective in degrading many contaminants like pesticides, heavy metals, wood-preserving chemicals, petroleum products, solvents and explosives. The main objective of bioremediation is to restore the disposal site back to its uncontaminated status that includes growth of vegetation which stabilizes the soil. (United States Environmental Protection Agency, n.d, p.1). In the year 1990, the US Environmental Protection Agency started the use the bioremediation technology to treat hazardous waste and sites that were contaminated. Currently there are nine disposal sites which apply the bioremediation technology in the US, Fairbanks being one of them (National Service Center for Environmental Publications, 2009, p.1).
The technology presents an effective, safe and secure environment and solution to on-site disposal methods to many of the hazardous waste and contaminated sites, though there is no technology which has been said to fully decontaminate the soil (Husain & Hejazi, 2004, par.1). The damping site of Fairbanks, Alaska used the bioremediation technology to evaluate the practicability of using the technology to remediate in impure/polluted sites. Advantages of the technology are; it is easy to apply because it does not need any personal protective clothing, it is a sophisticated technology in that it is easy to use, it is friendly to the environment, it is cost effective and it is a lasting solution to the environment and ecosystem (Bioworld Products, 2007, par.1). The following are the bioremediation technological services used by the Fairbanks in North America; Two-Step Static System, the Biosite system and bio- In-A-Box services. TOSS (Two-Step Static system is a bioremediation technology which involves two stages which are both aerobic and anaerobic treatment stages. The first stage involves the combination of explosives- contaminated soil with carbon source, vitamins, water and inoculums in order to attain anaerobic conditions (treatment of solid waste in absence of oxygen). The end product is made into a pile to speed up the chemical diminution of nitramine and nitroaromatic explosives. During the second stage, the soil that is treated anaerobically is mixed with compost waste and formed into an aerated biopile. The biopile is aerated either by turning the pile with an equipment called compost turner or air is forced through perforated pipes that located beneath the pile. This method has been associated with 99% removal effectiveness (Waste management, 2009, par.3).
The second bioremediation technology service is the BioSite System which is used in large scale soils that are contaminated with petrochemicals (alcohols, benzene, acetone, ethylbenzene, methyl isobutyl ketone, methyl ethyl ketone and petroleum hydrocarbons). Other contaminants may include pesticides, chemical manufacturing wastes, aliphatic chlorinated hydrocarbons and used molecular from packing tower (Waste management, 2009, par.4). The last but not least method used has similar principles as those of BioSite and TOSS is the Bio-In-A-Box. However, this service is intended for indoors use on a small-scale set-up. The contaminated soil in this case is moisturized and combined with custom grown microbes and nutrients and later it is laid in a container which is closed for incubation purposes. The container may be connected to an aeration and void pipes and after a few weeks, the treated of decontaminated soil can be taken back into the landfill (Waste management, 2009, par.5).
North America being one of the areas that generates a lot of waste has embraced the idea of using the bioremediation technologies especially in Fairbanks where the population growth rate is rapid (Waste management, 2009, par.1). Bioremediation technology is cost-effective and has a less environmental impact when compared to chemical and physical ways of managing waste (Takahata, Hironori & Takamichi, 2005, par.1). Poor or ignorance disposing of waste has detrimental effects both to human beings and the environment. It is associated with diseases which can be prevented if the waste is properly managed.
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