Friday, June 22, 2018

Editorial essays by two sixth-grade students

Below you will find essays written by two sixth-grade students from Windham Middles School. These essays were a part of their Project-based learning on water pollution.

Essay One
Ensuring our water is clean
By Jaida Narvaez

Did you know that only one quart of gasoline or oil can contaminate up to 250,000 gallons of water? In the state of Maine, we need to keep our water clean, because before we know it, we might not have any at all!

Before you worry about running out of clean water, remember that after you read this essay, you will be educated with this topic. And if you are willing to, you can help stop water pollution!
Some things we will talk about in this writing piece are; natural pollutants, human activities that lead to polluting and ways you can help prevent pollution.

Natural Pollutants:
These are pollutants that are caused by substances of a natural origin. Although they are natural, they still pollute our water and cause serious problems. Natural pollutants, such as soil are mostly carried into the water from runoff. As stated earlier, these pollutants can cause serious problems like algae growth, decreased clarity, and warm water. You might think warm water is a good thing, but it actually means that the water has less oxygen in it. When water has a very low oxygen level, some low tolerant animals in the water might die. This is a problem because eventually, some aquatic animals could go extinct.

Human Impacts:
As you probably know, humans can pollute the water too. Sometimes, we pollute without even knowing it! Next, we will talk about some of the things you might have done that could lead to polluting our water. Not picking up your pet’s waste. Besides just being gross, this will lead to much bigger problems in our water. When it rains, runoff will carry your dog’s waste to the water. As a result, the water will be turbid, and have low oxygen levels. Furthermore, when oil from your boat ends up in the water, along with oil from other boats, it destroys the insulating ability of fur bearing mammals. These animals would include sea otters and birds. Lastly for this paragraph, is fertilizers and pesticides. You might not think twice before adding fertilizer to your lawn to get healthy, luscious, green, grass. But if you don’t apply it correctly, you could pollute your nearest body of water. When runoff carries your fertilizer into the water, the nutrients from this chemical makes a rapid growth in algae in the water. As we learned earlier, when too much algae is in the water, it makes the water lose oxygen, which affects aquatic life.

You might feel hopeless after hearing about all the pollutants, but thankfully, there are solutions! For example, one solution would be rain gardens. Rain gardens are bowl-shaped gardens that are designed specifically to capture and filter runoff from roofs, driveways, and other hard surfaces. They collect water and allow it to sink, slowly, into the ground. Not only does it look good, but it is also a great way to reduce the amount of polluted runoff that flows into the water! Another solution would be an infiltration trench. These are basically trenches filled with gravel/crushed stone that collect runoff and filter the pollution out of it, making it cleaner for when it reaches our water. Lastly, you could try vegetated buffers. These are trees, shrubs, and other plants that catch polluted runoff before it reaches our water. Try some of these solutions, and you can help reduce pollution, save aquatic life, and keep our water clean!

Humans, nature, and animals all contribute to pollution, but now that you know these solutions, you can do your part to help reduce the amount of pollution that reaches our water! So next time that you apply fertilizer to your plants, leave your dog’s waste on the ground, let your boat leak oil, or see construction sites getting soil in the water, remember that all those things pollute our water. But you, can stop it. You can make a difference!

Essay Two
Fresh water pollution in Maine
By Joley Graden

3.4 million people die from waterborne diseases every day. Can you imagine not being able to turn on a faucet with clean water in it? Just imagine yourself going to your sink, turning on the faucet and filling a glass cup with fresh cold icy water. Because of untreated dirty unhealthy water, a child dies every 90 seconds from a water-related disease. In my opinion this is heartbreaking!  Luckily, we as Mainers don't have these kind of issues . . . yet. That’s why we need to treat our freshwater with care if we don't want to have these issues. Some other things you will learn about are what natural pollutants are and human impacts. Also you will learn solutions to these issues.

Natural Pollutants:
Natural pollution and human pollution are both bad but natural pollutants are the worst for our freshwater. Some examples of natural pollutants are soil, and animal waste. Soil is the number one pollutant in Maine because there's tons of it!  Soil: adds nutrients to the water which can cause algae blooms to grow which causes plants not to get nutrients because the algae is blocking their sunlight. Also, the animals can't get the food they need. In addition, when an algae bloom occurs, it makes the water turbid; makes water cloudy and the dissolved oxygen levels decrease; dissolved oxygen which is harmful to aquatic life. However, If the sediments were to get into a fish’s gills this would not just affect the fish, this would affect the consumers as well. People could end up getting sick with a waterborne illness. This is just some of the many effects of natural pollutants.     
Human Impact:
In my opinion human impact is the worst of all of them. I say this because most of the time you can choose whether to pollute the water or pick it up and dispose of it properly. Specifically, some human pollutants are car oil, fertilizers, herbicides, road salt and sand, litter, pesticides, car soap, factory waste, etc. Do you wash your car? Have you ever thought where the soaps go into? Well they all runoff into the closest water body (Watershed) and pollute the water; instead you could stop the pollution, so it doesn't affect the environment. Same with fertilizers if you don't apply them properly they can affect your watershed. Like for an example if you put down fertilizer when it’s going to rain the next day. There are many ways to solve these problems the question is will you take the time to solve them?

Now that you know some ways we harm our environment here are some ways to save it. On the other hand, using BMPs (best management practices) help reduce runoff and pollution. Some BMPs are vegetated buffers, rain barrels, rain gardens, infiltration trenches, and dry wells, etc. Some situations where you could use these solutions are when you have eroded spots on your lawn you could cover those spots with buffers to keep the soil/dirt from running off into the water. Another scenario is if you were washing your car on your paved driveway all of the soap and chemicals would runoff because of the pervious pavement but if you washed your car on the grass you would give the soaps time to infiltrate (soak into the ground) into the ground so it wouldn't harm are water bodies. When water goes into the atmosphere it does the same things as ground and plants. In a similar fashion, it takes the pollutants away so it’s not harming are water or the environment.

In closing, as we saw earlier freshwater pollution is a big problem in Maine and other places around the world. You can stop human impact by disposing of things the right way like clean up road salt and sand in your driveway (use a broom). However, you can stop natural pollutants by using BMPs to reduce runoff. BMPs are very important to stop pollution, and I recommend using them if you have these sorts of problems. According to Brian Tracy, “There are no limits to what you can accomplish, except the limits you place on your own thinking. If you are working on something that you really care about, you don't have to be pushed.”

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