Accidental Pollution and Water Contamination

When circumstances beyond reasonable control result in the contamination of water, this is what is called accidental pollution. Like other kinds of water pollution, accidental pollution causes problems in aquatic ecosystems and requires more energy, money, and time that would normally be spent on filtering the water that was once used as a drinking water source for many people.


One of the main causes of accidental pollution is spillage. This is when chemicals, petroleum, or even solid matter are spilled from a ship or other transportation system that travels through surface water such as rivers or lakes. The most infamous types of spillage accidents are usually oil spills because they are so difficult to clean up and have such a bad effect on the water and the wildlife.

Spillage causes a number of environmental problems. It requires a large amount of time, money, and energy to clean up, especially petroleum spills. Chemicals spilled unintentionally into water can not only kill aquatic animals and plants, but also can cause eutrophication and dead zones in the water. Filtering water that is the product of accidental spillage is more difficult than other waters because it is widespread and has the additional dead animal and plant matter to clean up as well.

Avoiding spills that would cause such widespread problems is hard to do, simply because they are accidents. Keeping containers that hold chemicals and petroleum securely sealed and fastened to something sturdy is a good way to avoid accidents. Another way would include diligence as to the geography of the water being navigated, so that any scraping accidents could be evaded.


A problem similar to spillage is leaks that affect not only surface water, but ground water sources of fresh water. Leaks occur in underground containers meant to contain hazardous materials for storage, either for future responsible disposal or for future use when there is a breach in the integrity of the material the container is made of. This breach allows whatever is inside to leak out, and it seeps into ground water as well as surface water if it is close enough to a source of surface water.

Leaks cause an enormous amount of trouble because they are very hard to clean up. The leaks generally happen underground before there is much warning and require the ground over the tanks to be removed before the leak can even be fixed. By that time, it has soaked into ground water and even become part of the surface runoff to surface water. This can make ground water irreversibly unusable and ruin aquatic ecosystems in surface water.

The key to maintaining a healthy underground containment system is to monitor the quality of the equipment. If there is a leak, it should be discovered and contained immediately, along with actions to clean it up. This will cost less money, time, and energy in the long run as well as conserve the water resources that the leak would contaminate if it had time. Another option may be to no longer use underground storage so that there is no risk or expensive evacuation system if it ever leaks.

Flotsam and Jetsam

These two nautical terms are also terms for physical objects that aren�t liquids that are dumped or lost in water, causing contamination. Flotsam is objects that are in the water without any reason for being there, such as a ship that was tossed around in a storm and cargo fell overboard. Jetsam is objects that are willingly thrown from a ship (from the term jettison) either in an emergency or to get rid of them.

Flotsam and jetsam are becoming a major environmental problem when it comes to contaminated water. Things such as chemical containers and other pathogens being transported through fresh water by boat can easily contaminate the water if they fall or are thrown overboard. This harms the ecosystem, either by creating aquatic dead zones because the chemicals kill fish and the decomposition uses all the oxygen, or with eutrophication, which causes algae blooms. Smaller pieces of flotsam and jetsam can also hurt the aquatic creatures that could swallow them or get caught in them.

The most obvious solution for the reduction of water contamination for flotsam and jetsam is to stop losing or throwing objects overboard. This may mean storing objects inside a ship instead of on the deck, heftier fines for those caught throwing things overboard, and/or having more secure bindings to keep objects in place if they are stored on the deck.

Accidental pollution that contributes towards water contamination is certainly the hardest type of contamination to control, mostly because the cause is something that can�t be predicted very well. But by monitoring underground containment systems and making sure things being transported in freshwater are secured, we can ensure that spillage and flotsam and jetsam don�t happen as often.