Water Pollution/Oceans, Lakes, Rivers, Wetlands Issues

Problems/Case Studies

"Fecal Coliforms in Antarctica" Stephen Nold, University of Wisconsin-Stout. State University of New York at Buffalo’s National Center for Case Study Teaching
In this interrupted case study, students explore the environmental consequences of Antarctic research as they design experiments to assess the impact of disposing untreated sewage from a research station into the ocean. Students review experimental methods to measure coliform bacteria, examine data, and decide what actions, if any, should be taken.
Developed for a general microbiology course, the case could also be used in non-majors courses in science literacy, in which case the instructor would emphasize the process of data collection and analysis.

"Endangered? The Scenic St. Croix River: A Case Study in Water Stewardship." Pamela Locke Davis, University of Minnesota. State University of New York at Buffalo’s National Center for Case Study Teaching
Controversy over management of the St. Croix River is the setting for this case study, which illustrates water resource concepts and the difficulties that can arise when making decisions about natural resources.
Designed for a water resources course taken primarily by undergraduate juniors and seniors, the case could be used effectively in classes covering water quality, water policy, environmental policy, limnology, stream ecology, environmental studies or science, or environmental decision making.

"The Microbial Cleanup Brigade". DE Allen Thinking Toward Solutions:  Problem-Based Learning Activities for General Biology.  Allen, D. E. and Duch, B. J. (1998).   New YorkSaunders College Publishing, p115-124.  

        Stage 1:
  Daniel works for a bioremediation plant.  A local reporter gets wind of a well that has high levels of chlorinated hydrocarbons, chloroform, etc.  Daniel is called when tests reveal that the well has contaminated local groundwater and soil. Students evaluate the probability of the contamination and the evidence needed from the soil samples to suggest bioremediation is the best solution.

        Stage 2:  Students review data and figures for the feasibility study Daniel submits.  Looking at the data, students determine which microorganisms will be affected by bioremediation and the components specific chemicals put on site as well as why the community respiration was measured.

        Stage 3:  Bioremeidation occurs.  Students evaluate the ethical standpoint of the problem.  Funding, homeowner viewpoints, and alternate use of bioaugmentation are addressed.


“Floridians prepare early as Wilma becomes season’s 12th hurricane”.  Post and Courier, Wednesday, October 19, 2005.
In the aftermath of Katrina, citizens predict and prepare for the next hurricane.

“Katrina churns toward soggy Florida”.  O’Driscoll, Patrick.  USA Today, Thursday, August 25, 2005.
The Category I Katrina was expected to hit South Florida.  The article is prior to Katrina hitting New Orleans.  June and July 2005 had an increase in Atlantic storms.  Katrina was the first hurricane of August 2005.

"As more carbon dioxide enters air, oceans become more acidic".  New York Times in Post and Courier, July 3, 2005.
The British Royal Society reported that the world's oceans are becoming more acidic.  This will likely harm coral reefs and marine life.  The carbon dioxide release comes from multiple outlets including the burning of fossil fuels, releasing 25 billion metric tons of carbon dioxide into the air yearly.  The alkalinity of the ocean has decreased 0.1 to a pH of 8.1.  This is 30% more hydrogen ions in teh water. All organisms with carbonate skeletons and shells may be affected.

CNN Video Clips

Topic:  "River Pollution": Environmental Science 5th Ed. CNN Ed (1:58 min)
According to the Most Endangered Rivers of 2001 report by the American Rivers organization, the increasing demand for energy is threatening the natural habitats of the nation’s rivers.  The report identifies waterways that are at risk of becoming endangered over the next year.  The criteria for evaluating whether a waterway is marked as endangered are:  the level of danger to the river, whether the interaction of outside sources could increase or decrease the threat, the national significance of the river, and the number of threats to the river.  The report identifies 13 waterways that are at risk of becoming endangered.  The most endangered on the list is the Missouri River, which flows through Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska, Iowa, Kansas, and Missouri.  The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is making plans to minimize the risk of harming fish and wildlife that are being endangered by six federal dam operations (Fort Peck, Garrison, Oahe, Big Bend, Gavins Point, and Fort Randall) that prevent the natural flow of water levels.  Second most at risk is the Canning River, which flows through the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) in Alaska.  Environmentalists are concerned that oil and gas industries interested in drilling the ANWR could pollute the Canning River with oil and chemicals or possibly alter the entire ANWR ecosystem, which currently remains untouched by industry because it is protected by law.  Third on the list is the Eel River, which flows through Northern California.  Three species of fish are at risk of extinction because of Hydro powered dam operations diverting water to other local rivers.  Fourth on the list is the Hudson River, which flows through New York.  Over 1 million pounds of polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) were released into the river from 1947 to 1977 by two General Electric factories.  Fifth on the list is the Powder River, which flows through Wyoming and Montana, and is threatened by the Coal Bed Methane industry.  Sixth on the list is the Mississippi River, which flows from Minnesota through eight states until it reaches the Gulf Coast of Louisiana.  Flood control projects proposed by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers could damage hundreds of thousands of acres of floodplain wetlands.  The remaining rivers at risk include the Big Sandy River, Snoqualmie River, Animas River, East Fork Lewis River, Paine River, Hackensack River, and Catawba River.  The worksheet includes the URL for the American Rivers organization web site.  (Student worksheet provided on CD)

Topic:  "Lake Pollution": Environmental Science 6th Ed. CNN Ed (1:44 min)
Nearly five million of the world’s freshwater lakes and reservoirs are in danger of being polluted indefinitely.  Lakes provide for at least 1 billion people who use them for recreation, commerce, food, or drinking water.  According to experts, lake pollution is caused by two primary factors:  contamination by outside sources such as toxic waste and runoff elements washed into the lake by industry, farms, or sewage as well as diversion of the lake water.  Experts comment that although lakes contain 35 times more water than in rivers, lakes are still more vulnerable because the water is not constantly in motion, which makes lakes much harder to restore.  In many cases, lakes may become over polluted before the extent of the pollution is even noticeable.  The worksheet includes the URL for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency web site.  (Student worksheet provided on CD)

Topic:  "Artificial Reefs": Environmental Science 5th Ed. CNN Ed (2:37 min)
For nearly 30 years, offshore oil platforms have been present off the coast of California.  During that period of time, marine life has spread extensively on and around the oil platform structures, as if the platforms themselves are a part of the marine environment.  The adapting marine life around oil platforms has become a common sight lately for many other oil structures off the coast of Texas, Louisiana, and Florida.  As the oil structures live out their remaining years of oil consumption, one of the issues under consideration by the oil companies is whether to remove the structures completely or leave them as they exist so the marine habitat remains undisturbed.  Some environmentalists and fishermen comment that keeping the rigs is an excellent idea because of the increasing amounts of thriving populations of marine life surrounding the rigs.  However, other environmentalists believe that the entire structures should be removed, citing that the marine life surrounding the oil structures is not a true marine life habitat.  (Student worksheet provided on CD)

Topic:  "State of the Beach": Environmental Science 6th Ed. CNN Ed (1:55 min)
According to the Natural Resources Defense Council, detection of increases in bacteria levels caused by sewage and runoff pollution is causing more beach closings throughout the U.S.  Experts believe that the significant increase is due to one of two factors:  more ocean pollution or a more effective monitoring program.  In 2002, more than 12,000 beach closings were reported, nearly 20% more than were reported in 2001.  Some of the symptoms of exposure to ocean pollution include fever, chills, vomiting, and diarrhea.  While most beach closures are due to pollution, other beach closures can be caused by coastal erosion.  Over the next 60 years, it is predicted that erosion could destroy one in four homes within 500 feet of the shoreline and cause nearly $½ billion in property loss each year.  The worksheet includes the URL for the Natural Resources Defense Council website.  (Student worksheet provided on CD)

Topic:  "Fish on Prozac": Biology 8th Ed. CNN Ed 2004 (1:57)
Drugs ingested by humans are excreted into the toilet and carried to sewer systems. Most sewage treatment plants remove debris and microorganisms but do not test for or remove drugs and other man-made chemicals. As a result, these chemicals are being released into our lakes and streams. Bryan Brooks, a toxicologist at Baylor University, examined fish living in waters downstream from a sewage treatment plant. He found traces of medications and personal care products in their tissues. It is possible that this chemical contamination may alter fish behavior or their ability to reproduce. It may also affect the invertebrates on which the fish feed. (Student worksheet provided on CD)

Topic:  "Everglades Restoration": Biology 5th Ed. CNN Ed 2001 (2:40)
An 8 billion dollar project to restore the Everglades is finally underway. America’s largest wetland once covered nearly one third of Southern Florida.  The diversion of water for agriculture and development destroyed at least half of the Everglades forever.  The hope is that the new project, which could take as long as thirty years, will restore the ecological balance in the remaining half.  The Army Corp of Engineers, which once worked to divert the water, is carrying out the restoration.  The worksheet includes the URL for the Everglades Restoration Plan web site. (Student worksheet provided on CD)