Heavy metals can leach into the water supply when it comes into contact with the drinking water as it is transported from the source to the faucet. The effects can range from a mild inconvenience to serious health problems in humans. It can cause a mildly upset stomach or may result in a terminal illness. Animals and fish, even more sensitive to many pollutants and these toxins, can be placed at risk when the ecological system of our rivers and lakes is disrupted. Whatever form the water pollution takes, it is certain to threaten the food supply, damage recreation areas, and be a major threat to human health.
When toxic chemicals leach or are spilled into the water system the wildlife that depends on that supply suffers. In the case of an oil spill from a tanker, the results are fast and obvious. Wildlife, fish, and birds are immediately threatened with the crude oil sludge. The oily sludge permeates their fur and feathers handicapping any hope of the animal's survival. This form of pollution is highly visible and causes damage that can be easily measured and evaluated. We can readily see the animals die as they encounter this water pollution. However, other types of pollution that threaten our wildlife are not so readily apparent. Industrial chemicals that leach into our water supply, streams, and lakes may not be visible to the human eye. They may not kill fish instantly as the fish survive the moderate levels of the toxins that are present. Many industrial pollutants, however, build up in the fish and wildlife over time. PCBs, a known carcinogen that has been banned, continues to persist in our environment and water supply (Environmental Defense Fund, 2006). Dioxin and heavy metals also have a long term poisoning effect on the fish. When a human eats the contaminated fish, they ingest the pollutants that have been stored in the fish. Consuming this source of food on a regular basis can cause severe health problems and lead to death. Water pollution will eventually poison not only the fish, but also the birds that feed on the fish and the prey that feeds on the birds. This will cause a widespread contamination of our environment and result in many of our food sources being unavailable or unhealthy to eat.
Often times when wastewater from a sewage system is improperly discharged into the environment it contaminates a public area that is used for swimming or recreation. This contaminated wastewater carries potentially dangerous viruses, parasites, and bacteria with it. The U.S. Center for Disease Control (CDC) lists over 20 different types of biological agents known to pollute recreational areas (Nester, Anderson, Roberts, Pearsall, & Nester, 2001). The effects of these waterborne pathogens can be as mild as a case of diarrhea or as serious as meningitis. High fever, liver infection, and birth defects have been traced to water pollution caused by contaminated wastewater discharged into a public lake or beach (Nester et al, 2001). Though these contaminates do occasionally foul our drinking water supply, the most likely contact the public has is at a common recreational area. The CDC documents all reported cases of illness caused by polluted water and found during the period of 1995-1996 of the 12000 cases of disease caused by contaminated water, a full 75 percent were contracted in a public beach or swimming facility (Nester et al, 2001). These statistics show not only the seriousness of the