Water Pollution Lab Report
Although the earth’s surface comprises of 70% water coverage, only 1% of the water is fresh. Nonetheless, contaminants and pollutants contribute to the pollution of the 1% available water. Lab 2 experiments are sought to establish whether people can depend on soil in the treatment and purification of water to make it suitable for human use. The experiments involved tests on the vegetable oil, vinegar, and liquid laundry detergent contaminants, pointing to the human aspect of water pollution. The soil can be depended on in the removal of oil from ground, but not in the eradication of chemical pollutants, such as vinegar. Thus, the status requires people to invest in the expensive water treatment and purification plants.
Keywords: water, soil, pollution
Scientific evidence indicates that water covers seventy percent of the earth’s surface. However, ninety nine percent of the said water is salty, hence, not healthy for human consumption and domestic purposes. Living organisms depend on fresh water for survival, including the organisms living in the salty waters, since they have adaptation mechanisms to match the environment in which they live. Consequently, the scientific evidence translates to the fact that all living organisms survive on the one percent of available fresh water. For survival, human beings have therefore adopted mechanisms of water treatment and purification to make it suitable for consumption and for the life support. However, the cost of water treatment and purification happens to be prohibitively high, necessitating the need to conserve the water catchment areas for freshwater, and avoid water pollution as much as possible (Agarwal, 2005).
On the earth’s surface, water collection occurs through precipitation, and it is seen in rivers, dams, and surface lakes. On the other hand, groundwater percolates through the rocks and collets in the permeable spongy-like rocks of the earth’s crust. While rainwater can be termed as pure and suitable for supporting life, including human consumption, natural and human triggered processes lead to the contamination and pollution of water. Beginning with gases released to the atmosphere to the industrial effluents that find their way into the water catchment areas and to the ground water, natural and human processes lead to the contamination of the 1% of freshwater available for consumption. Major pollutants of the surface water include gases in the environment, silt that finds its way into the surface water resources, farm chemicals, as well as sewerage and other industrial effluents. The chemicals that find their way past the earth’s crust pollute the ground water, and they mainly include chemical pollutants seeping into the ground (Chiras, 2010).
As water percolates through the soil, living organisms help reduce the amount of contaminants seeping to the water table. However, the microorganisms do not prevent all pollutants from reaching the water table, and in addition, they release gases into the soil after death and decomposition, which also end up in the groundwater. Therefore, the biological processes ensure that groundwater is always contaminated, though scientists claim that the ground water contains less amounts of contaminants, as compared to the surface water. The analysis of the available freshwater reveal to important factors, which include the fact that the available freshwater is little, and secondly, there are many contaminants that lead to the pollution of freshwater (Agarwal, 2005). The consumption of contaminated water happens to be dangerous; thus, the appropriate mechanisms should be implemented in order to make water suitable for human consumption and for domestic use. Hence, the processes of water treatment and purification come into play. The water treatment and purification process involves aeration, flocculation processes, sedimentation, filtration process, and lastly the chlorination process. The treated water then goes to the lab testing process, where tests are carried out to ensure that the water is suitable for human consumption. In the United States, the Safe Drinking Water Act sets forth the standards that the water must surpass with regard to the pH and minerals content to ensure that it is safe for domestic use (Chiras, 2010). This lab report presents the analysis of I) effects of ground water contamination, II) water treatment, and III) the quality of drinking water through lab experiments I-III, as discussed herein.
Materials and Methods
The first lab experiment is aimed at establishing the ability of laundry detergent, vinegar, and cooking oil to contaminate the ground water. The experiment began by filling four beakers labelled 1-4 with 100 ml of water, using the graduated cylinder of volume 100 ml. 10 ml of vinegar, vegetable oil, and liquid laundry detergent were added to the 100 ml of water in beakers 1, 2, and 3 respectively, leaving beaker 4 for the control experiment. The contents of beakers 1-3 were mixed thoroughly, using the wooden stir stick, with observations made and recorded. The second part of the experiment began with the lining of funnels, using moist cheese cloth to ensure that it stuck to the walls of the funnel, and then 60 ml of soil was added to the cheese-cloth-lined funnels, utilizing the 100 ml graduated cylinder. The contents of beaker’s 1-3 were filtered through the soil filled cheese-cloth-lined funnels, and observations made in each of the four setups. Contents of beaker 4 were left still for the control experiment.
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The second experiment is sought to look into the ability of filtration techniques in removing and eliminating contaminants in the water treatment and purification procedures. The second experiment began with the creation of a soil and water mixture by adding 100 ml of soil into a 250 ml calibrated cylinder and filling the latter to the 200 ml mark, by adding 100 ml of water and then mixing the contents thoroughly. The first 10 ml of the solution of soil and water were put aside to be used as the control experiment. 10 g of alum was then added to the soil and water mixture, and the resultant solution was allowed to settle after thorough stirring and mixing. The procedure was followed to allow for the flocculation process to take place. The solution of soil, water, and alum was divided into 10 ml, which was passed through the sand and cheese-cloth-lined funnel. The next 20 ml was filtered through a cheese-cloth-lined funnel, containing activated charcoal, and the last 40 ml were filtered through gravel. 75% of the remaining soil, water, and alum solution was filtered through the solidified cheese-cloth-lined filter, after which bleaching solution was added to the filtered water representative of the chlorination process. Observations of the filtered contents were made, and compared to the control experiment contents.
The last experiment entailed the testing of the water available in the market for compliance with the minimum standards, as provided for under the Safe Drinking Water Act of the United States. The tests were conducted to examine the minimum minerals contents of the water and the pH of two publicly traded, ready-to-drink water brands. The tested brands included Dasani and Fijji. The contents were compared to those of tap water. The experiments were conducted by the immersion of chloride, ammonia, phosphate, iron, and the 4-in-1 test strips into samples of Dasani, Fijji, and tap water. The results involved colour change, and the colour alterations on the test strips were observed against the respective test strips keys for the chloride, ammonia, phosphate, iron, and the 4-in-1 test strips.
Results and Discussion
The first experiment was sought to test the ability of vegetable oil, vinegar, and liquid laundry detergent to contaminate the groundwater, and the hypothesis for this experiment stated that all three components have the potential of polluting the groundwater. In the observations, vegetable oil, as a contaminant of ground water, was observed to form a layer of oil covering the surface of water. In reality, the cover of oil prevents the penetration of oxygen into the water, leading to the death of organisms and microorganisms in water. The death and decomposition of the microorganisms releases gases in the water, which in turn percolate into the groundwater; hence, causing its contamination. However, the filtration of the vegetable oil filled water through the soil revealed that soil has the ability to filter oil from water, infiltrating to the water, and thus, oil as a component, lacks the capacity to pollute the ground water. In the vinegar filtration experiment, vinegar was observed to result to a brown coloration of the water. It means that vinegar dissolves into the water, forming a solution. The filtration of the vinegar and water solution through the soil revealed that the vinegar contaminant did not get filtered by the soil, leading to the conclusion that vinegar as a soluble chemical component had the ability to contaminate both surface and ground water. Therefore, more complex water treatment processes are necessary to reduce or to eliminate vinegar from water in the water purification process (Kumar, 2004). Thirdly, the liquid laundry detergent led to a smell that could be identified in the water before filtration and after the filtration through the soil. Conclusions were then made, supporting the hypothesis that the detergents have the ability to contaminate both the surface and ground water.
Experiment two was sought to establish the efficacy of different methods of filtration, using sand, gravel, and activated charcoal. The experiment’s results would be applicable in the designing of an effective water filtration system, combining the three components tested in the experiment. Sand was observed to remove large particles from the water, resulting to a clearer than that observed in activated charcoal and gravel. Secondly, gravel was observed to remove smaller particles than sand, but larger than those removed by the activated charcoal. And lastly, the activated charcoal was observed to remove fine particles from the water, leaving the larger ones. Thus, the three components can be combined to form three layers, beginning with sand at the top, then gravel, and lastly activated charcoal in the filtration process to ensure that the procedure results into a more effective filtration mechanism (Kumar, 2004).
In the last experiment, the aim was to test the compliance of the water distributed for human consumption with the requirements set out in the Safe Drinking Water Act with regard to mineral contents and pH. Tap water appeared to have more iron oxide, as reflected by the brown coloration, compared to Fijji and Dasani respectively. A similar observation was made with the phosphate content, since the test strips indicated 50 on the phosphate strip and 0.6 on the iron strip for the tap water. The tap water indicated to have low amount of chlorine with a neutral alkalinity at 7.0.
In conclusion, the above-discussed experiments are aimed at explaining the dependency relationship between humanity and the environment in the purification of water. The experiments indicate that although people can depend on the environment to rid the water of such contaminants as oil spillages and other chemical pollutants, the environment happens to have a certain level of ineffectiveness; thus, meaning that people have to invest in water treatment plants to make the water suitable for consumption and domestic use.