The ground's pollution

Soil is a natural resource that corresponds to the upper layer of the Earth's crust. It contains water and nutritional elements that living beings use. The soil is vital, since human beings depend on it for the production of food, raising animals, planting trees, obtaining water and some mineral resources, among other things. It supports and nourishes plants in their growth and, therefore, conditions the entire development of the ecosystem.

When a soil has been continuously used, it deteriorates, degrades, and stops possessing and providing its initial qualities. We can say that a soil is contaminated when the original physical, chemical or biological characteristics have been altered in a negative way, due to the presence of components that are dangerous or harmful to the ecosystem. Then, the productivity that the soil had is totally or partially lost.

The natural properties of the soil allow it to self-regenerate in certain not very extreme conditions, but when subjected to industrial and agricultural activities, among other actions that have a great impact on the soil, its properties are nullified and it loses the capacity for self-generation.

The most common problems in relation to soil have to do with people's activities. Soils suffer from the constant dumping of all types of waste, since they are capable of retaining and accumulating polluting agents for years, the most common being heavy metals, hydrocarbons, mineral oils and pesticides.

Although in the short term the harmful effects of said waste are not noticed, over time any alteration of the soil, or even climate changes, can cause the release of stored contaminants, which may affect other media such as air or water. surface and underground. Furthermore, as pollutants move through the most permeable layers of the soil, there is a risk of affecting neighboring areas.

The problems directly derived from the anthropic use of soils are currently very severe.

Erosion, desertification, pollution, compaction, the advance of cities and urbanization, and the loss of fertility are among the most serious problems affecting soils today.

If we take erosion into account, we will see that the soil erosion It is accelerating on all continents and is degrading some 2.000 billion hectares of crop and grazing land, which represents a serious threat to the global food supply. Every year, soil erosion and other forms of land degradation cause the loss of between 5 and 7 million hectares of arable land.

In underdeveloped countries, the growing need for food and firewood has resulted in deforestation and cultivation of steep slopes, which has produced severe slope erosion. To further complicate the problem, there is the loss of prime farmland due to industry, swamps, the expansion of cities and roads. Soil erosion and the loss of cropland and forests further reduce the moisture holding capacity of soils and add sediment to streams, lakes and reservoirs.

The available research information on the types, causes, degree and severity of land degradation is still insufficient in most Latin American countries. This lack of information makes it extremely difficult to identify and implement effective land conservation and rehabilitation strategies.

Currently, soil contamination is increasingly in the focus of environmental management, mainly due to the risk that contaminated soil can pose to human health and to the proper functioning of ecosystems.

Managing contaminated soil

This consists of a gradual process over time, in which we start from an initial phase with little information and advance in phases, in which more knowledge is acquired about the pollution problem. This process must be based on the following stages:

1. Preliminary recognition: It consists of the compilation of information that makes it possible to assess the possibility that significant contamination has occurred or will occur in the soil in which an activity has been carried out.

2. Preliminary evaluation: The existence of signs of contamination will lead to the preparation of a preliminary evaluation report. You must have a first real approximation to the magnitude of the problem, define the origin and nature of the contamination source, the transfer vectors and the subjects that must be protected, and define whether emergency actions are needed.

3. Detailed evaluation: This phase consists of the detailed preparation of the evaluation report that must allow the contamination sources to be precisely characterized, delimit the scope of the contamination, determine whether the risk is acceptable or unacceptable and, in this second case, obtain enough information to move on to the next study phase.

4. Recovery: Considering a soil as contaminated implies the obligation to carry out environmental recovery actions for the site.

Decontamination processes are expensive, but if we take into account that the soil is a natural environment that provides us with multiple benefits, and that it takes thousands of years to form, we would have to think that everything we do for the benefit of the soil is little. Therefore, it would be convenient to establish a series of factors, by virtue of which the soils are decontaminated. That is, the danger of contamination will depend on effects such as buffering power or how vulnerable the soil is to contamination, etc.

One of the most important factors to evaluate is the extent of contamination, as well as the nature and extent to which the contaminants are concentrated. The nature of these is very important because depending on the danger they bring to the soil, it will be contaminated more or less quickly, and to a greater or lesser depth.

In summary, it is worth saying that management for the maintenance of soils in their original state, preventing their contamination by excessive and abusive uses and cleaning and decontaminating those already deteriorated sites should be taken as another branch of environmental conservation, perhaps less striking. in the eyes of public opinion, but just as important as any other type of action.

To overcome the aforementioned problems, solutions that involve immediate action and also prevention methods must be considered to prevent further future deterioration. Part of the deterioration caused can be solved by nature itself with its natural cycles. Therefore, human action should contribute to creating the necessary conditions for nature to undertake its work of restoration. However, recovering the soil once it has been destroyed is a slow process if left alone at its natural pace, and very expensive if we try to accelerate it. Therefore, the most reasonable thing is to prevent the soil from being destroyed.

Cristian Frers – Higher Technician in Environmental Management and Higher Technician in Social Communication

1 comment on “Soil pollution”

  1. Interesting material that helps overcome problems such as taking care of the land, allowing the soil to be contaminated and planting crops and taking good care of it.

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