What Science Tells Us:  

Excerpt from the US Environmental Protection Agency

Nutrient pollution is one of America’s most widespread, costly and challenging environmental problems, and is caused by excess nitrogen and phosphorus in the air and water. Excessive nitrogen and phosphorus that washes into water bodies and is released into the air are often the direct result of human activities. The primary sources of nutrient pollution are:

  • Agriculture: Animal manure, excess fertilizer applied to crops and fields, and soil erosion make agriculture one of the largest sources of nitrogen and phosphorus pollution in the country.
  • Stormwater: When precipitation falls on our cities and towns, it runs across hard surfaces – like rooftops, sidewalks and roads – and carries pollutants, including nitrogen and phosphorus, into local waterways.
  • Wastewater: Our sewer and septic systems are responsible for treating large quantities of waste, and these systems do not always operate properly or remove enough nitrogen and phosphorus before discharging into waterways.
  • Fossil Fuels: Electric power generation, industry, transportation and agriculture have increased the amount of nitrogen in the air through use of fossil fuels.
  • In and Around the Home: Fertilizers, yard and pet waste, and certain soaps and detergents contain nitrogen and phosphorus, and can contribute to nutrient pollution if not properly used or disposed of. The amount of hard surfaces and type of landscaping can also increase the runoff of nitrogen and phosphorus during wet weather.

What Science Tells:

Seneca Lake and Nutrient Pollution

John Halfman, Ph.D., teaches in the Department of Geoscience and Environmental Studies Program at Hobart and William Smith Colleges in Geneva, NY.    His research is focused on the Finger Lakes and includes the:

  • collection of limnological and hydrogeochemical data to investigate records of environmental change.
  • hydrogeochemical impact of zebra mussels on these lakes.
  • the source and fate of non-point source pollutants within watersheds.
  • water quality variability between watersheds.