How to Prevent Water Pollution from Your Business

Water pollution occurs due to contamination by harmful chemicals or substances that invade any water supply, including oceans, lakes, rivers, streams, estuaries, subsurface groundwater, canals, reservoirs, and aquifers.

The World Health Organization (WHO) warns of the following concerns about  industrial wastewater tanks.

  • Over 2 billion people globally drink feces-contaminated water
  • Water with microbial contaminates can transmit cholera, polio, diarrhea, typhoid, and dysentery
  • Over 2 billion people currently live in water-stressed countries, with increased numbers expected due to population growth and climate change
  • Arsenic, nitrates, fluoride, pesticides, fertilizers, pharmaceuticals, microplastics, radioactive substances, and PFASs are significant risks to the water supply

Pollution to the water supply can occur naturally, accidentally, or purposely. One of the leading natural pollutants is mercury from the Earth’s crust entering the vast bodies of water. Environmental accidents like oil spills and chemical derailments can affect water quality and require costly and time-consuming cleanup processes. However, human activity, whether personal or corporate, is one of the most dangerous causes of water pollution. 

The deteriorating quality of the water supply can lead to significant problems, including:

  • Food chain contamination
  • Destruction of ecosystems
  • Loss of potable water
  • Infant mortality
  • Disease 

Examples of Water Pollution from Businesses

Factories, farms, construction sites, and other businesses send toxic substances into the water daily, increasing pollution and risks to health and life. Here are some of the many examples of water pollution from businesses:

  • Wastewater, sewage, and industrial waste

From sewage to toxic chemicals, including sludge, solvents, heavy metals, and other remnants of industrial manufacturing, these substances do not always make it to sewage treatment systems. Over 850 billion gallons of wastewater that has not been treated enter the waterways in the US each year. Many toxins can come from factories and other industrial sites that enter the environment and land on the ground. Direct dumping by some companies, weakened regulations, and lack of enforcement pose significant health risks. 

Wastewater also comes from stormwater run-off, which pushes oil, chemicals, grease, and road salts from the roadways into the water supply following rainfall. Road resurfacing materials can cause serious harm. One state governor just approved using phosphogypsum, a “radioactive” mining waste product from fertilizer manufacturing linked to cancer, for roadways. Phosphogypsum also includes other radioactive elements like radium, thorium, and uranium. 

  • Agricultural: pesticides, fertilizers, and animal manure 

Agriculture pollution is a leading source of water degradation globally. It contaminates our wetlands, rivers, streams, lakes, estuaries, and groundwater. Rain washes pesticides, fertilizers, and animal waste into the waterways. Teaming with viruses and bacteria, these pathogens pollute the water, making it dangerous to drink, use for crops, or washing. Nutrient pollution is a leading water quality threat worldwide due to excess phosphorus and nitrogen in the air or water, causing blue-green algae that is harmful to all life, including animals and people.

  • Car oil, dust, and building site sediment washing in drains

Construction sites often have multiple chemicals and hazardous materials that can be tracked onto roads by equipment leaving the sites. Rainstorms can further wash these toxins into nearby waterbodies. Wind blows dust particles into nearby storm drains and waterways. Ensuring that fueling areas are far from storm drains and natural resources is crucial. A small amount of fuel, oil, or hydraulic fluid can contaminate water sources and poison sea life. 

  • Oil Spills

Refineries, large tankers, service stations, and offshore drilling operations are sources of oil pollution affecting our waterways. These oils include crude, gasoline, jet fuel, diesel, and more that seep into the water supply via normal shipping, oil spills, dumping, and run-off incidents. 

  • Ship ballast water in the sea and oceans

Ballast tanks and cargo holds in ships contain fresh or saltwater to help provide maneuverability or stability at sea when they do not contain cargo or if the seas are rough. When not needed, the water is released into a port, and because the water comes from multiple areas, it may release non-native organisms and toxins picked up elsewhere into the water supply. Maritime traffic is responsible for much of the oceans’ plastic pollution. 

  • Radioactive waste

Nuclear power plants, uranium mining, radioactive material used by hospitals and universities for medicine and research, and military weapon production and testing emit radiation that can remain for thousands of years in the environment. 

How Does Water Pollution Affect Human Health?

Drinking water quality can benefit or hinder health in numerous ways, as poor water quality increases the risk of water-borne diseases. According to a WHO survey, 50% of childhood deaths and 80% of diseases worldwide are due to poor drinking water quality. More than 50 diseases are associated with water pollution and contamination. Nitrate exposure, including from fertilizer, in children can increase the risk of stunted growth. 

Here are some of the many ways polluted water affects health:

  • Cholera

Consuming water or food contaminated with the bacteria vibrio cholerae can lead to cholera. Symptoms include headache, abdominal cramps, and vomiting. Untreated cholera can lead to dehydration, diarrhea, and death. 

  • Diarrhea

A leading symptom of gastrointestinal disease, diarrhea significantly increases the risk of illness and death in young children in developing countries. Diarrhea is also associated with human or animal waste pathogen contamination, viruses, protozoans, and bacteria in water pollution. It can lead to electrolyte loss, dehydration, and infant and child death. 

  • Typhoid

Salmonella typhosa can cause infection and acute intestinal ulceration in people who drink or wash their food with contaminated water. Headache, loss of appetite, and nausea are symptoms.  

  • Dysentery

Acute diarrhea that contains mucus or blood is a sign of this intestinal infection that occurs by consuming water or food washed with contaminated water. Fever, abdominal pain, and vomiting are other signs. 

  • Skin Disease

Rashes, itching, scabies, ringworm, and various dermatitis exposure to pathogenic microorganisms in contaminated water can also increase the risk of skin cancer.

  • Cancer

Arsenic, chrmium, and nitrate found in drinking water can lead to skin, bladder, and kidney cancer, with arsenic risk comparable to radon and tobacco smoke in the US. Nitrates increase colorectal cancer in men. Trihalomethane increases brain and bladder cancer in all genders and non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma and kidney cancer in men. 

The chlorine used in the water treatment process also poses gastrointestinal, rectal, bladder, urinary, and all cancers risks. Nitrogen compounds from fertilizers were positively correlated with esophageal cancer mortality. 

  • Neurological problems, liver, and kidney damage

One of the leading problems today is exposure to microplastics in almost all of the Earth’s oceans. These microscopic plastic particles occur over time as larger plastic products that find their way to the various bodies of water slowly break down. Nano- and microplastics are also found in many consumer products, such as skin care preparations and fabrics. When these items are washed down the drain, their microparticles are often consumed by sea life that we, in turn, eat. These toxic chemicals increase the risk of developing neurological, immune, reproductive, and other developmental abnormalities. 

Chemical and heavy metal pollutants increase the risk of liver damage. Pesticides and heavy metals also increase neurologic toxicity. Some chemical pollutants do not cause diseases but increase inflammation in organs such as the kidneys and liver. ADHD is another neurological issue associated with the ongoing consumption of chemically polluted water. 

Lead poisoning from old pipes or water systems contaminated by discharged hazardous chemicals is a significant concern. Health problems associated with lead poisoning include anemia, high blood pressure, kidney and other organ damage, and nervous and reproductive systems issues. 

  • Endocrine system damage

As organs and other body areas are affected by contaminated water, they can impact hormone production by the endocrine system. According to, hormonal changes caused by various reasons can lead to adverse reproductive outcomes in women and men.

  • Hepatitis

Water and food washed with water that is contaminated with the hepatitis virus can spread this infectious disease that can lead to liver problems, including jaundice, abdominal pain, weight loss, nausea, fever, and fatigue. 

  • Intestinal and other worms

Many intestinal worms, including hookworms, roundworms, and whipworms, are parasites transmitted via contaminated water used for food or drink. Anemia, growth retardation, and malnutrition are possible, especially in children.

Parasitic worms that cause schistosomiasis damage the bladder, intestines, and liver. Some freshwater snails can carry these worms and their eggs. Approximately 200 million people a year are affected by this.

Dracunculiasis, or Guinea Worm Disease, is common in Africa in people who drink water contaminated with the larvae of the worms. The larvae develop and grow up to a meter in length for about a year before exiting the body, leaving behind incapacitating ulcers. 

  • Trachoma

Contaminated water can cause this eye infection, mainly affecting children and women, leading to blindness. 

  • Gastroenteritis, encephalitis, stomach cramps and ulcers, and respiratory infections

Issues such as these are the result of consuming highly polluted beach water. 

How Can Companies Prevent Water Pollution?

If every company increases its steps to prevent water pollution, it will significantly impact our environment, health, and safety. While not every solution works for all businesses, finding one or two that you can use in your company will make quite a difference. 

Here are some of the many ways companies can help prevent water pollution:

  • Proper treatment of industrial and wastewater before its release into the environment 

Safely treating wastewater before it goes to the waterways is crucial. Companies that produce wastewater need to take the appropriate steps to treat their water in-house or arrange for outside wastewater treatment facilities to handle the task. 

  • Reducing plastic waste that ends up as microplastics 

Restricting single-use plastics, such as water and beverage bottles, straws, baggies, shopping bags, cutlery, balloons, cups, condiment wrappers, and food containers, can reduce toxin release into the environment and bodies of water. Recycling plastics is crucial to keep them out of the water supply. 

  • Wetland Conservation       

Protecting the wetlands from pollution and encouraging sustainable fishing to avoid depletion of the seas are ways some businesses can help the environment.

  • Reduce chemical pesticides used on crops and fields 

By doing so, fewer contaminants will seep into the ground and the water supply. Plant trees and shrubs near bodies of water to prevent chemical run-off into the water. 

  • Use of septic tanks 

These tanks separate liquids from solids, processing and degrading the solids and sending the liquids to a land drainage system. Septic tanks rid the water of pollutants. 

  • Decrease CO2 emissions 

Help prevent global warming and ocean acidification by decreasing CO2 emissions from your business. CO2 emissions heat the water and reduce its oxygen content.


Every person and business can help prevent water pollution by doing their part to reduce and eliminate contaminants entering the water supply. Clean drinking water is the most vital of all our resources. We must take every possible step to protect the global water supply. 

Seek out ways to reduce pollutants by reducing plastic usage, avoiding chemical pesticides and fertilizers, properly disposing of chemicals and nonbiodegradable items, and being mindful of what goes down the drains. 

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