Soil Pollution for Industrial Waste

Maksudul Hasan Mahfuz

I’m not blaming baselessly. Seriously we are killing our mother soil by poisoning. Soil being ‘Universal sink’ bears the greatest burden of environmental pollution. There is an urgency in controlling the soil pollution in order to preserve the soil fertility and increase the productivity. Soil pollution refers to the contamination of soil with anomalous concentration of toxic substances.

Soil is the thin layer of organic and inorganic materials that covers the Earth’s rocky surface. The organic portion, which is derived from the decayed remains of plants and animal, is concentrated in the dark uppermost topsoil. The inorganic portion made up of rock fragments, was formed over thousands of years by physical and chemical weathering of bedrock. Productive soils are necessary for agriculture to supply the world with sufficient food. The soil is also the home for a large part of bacterial biodiversity and other microscopic and macroscopic living organisms.

Soil is being polluted in many ways, like

· Seepage from a landfill

· Discharge of industrial waste into the soil

· Percolation of contaminated water into the soil

· Rupture of underground storage tanks

· Excess application of pesticides, herbicides or fertilizer

· Solid waste seepage

The root cause of soil pollution is often one of the following

Agriculture (excessive/improper use of pesticides)

Excessive industrial activity

Poor management or inefficient disposal of waste

In this article one of the main causes of soil pollution I.e., industrial activity will be focused specifically. The Industrial Revolution has changed the economy of this country. Numerous industrial factories have sprung up mainly in urban areas where most of the industries have no specific waste disposal area or recycling system.

Large quantity of solid wastes like unused and rejected chemicals (like calcium carbonate, magnesium sulphate, ferrous chloride, ferrous oxide, radioactive wastes, fly ashes, sludge, press mud, saw dust, bottles, plastic materials) unwanted industrial wastes generated during manufacturing processes (rejection, broken items of metal, plastic, wooden or chemical solids, powders) are dumped over on the surface of soil by almost all industries with difference in the degree. Larger the production base, larger is the generation of wastes. Traditionally, these materials have been dumped around the factory site or around the entire city. Rarely, they are put to recycling or safe conversion. All these solid materials dumped on surface of soils are bound to change the chemical and physical nature of soil besides contributing large quantity of pollutants to underground water – whenever rain water passes through them. In most situations, solid wastes have caused problems such as foul smell (sugar and paper industry), disturbed air composition (fly ash from thermal power plants and cement industries) changed the physical nature of soil (coal and steel industrial wastes), as well as radioactive dangers (atomic power plants).

Inorganic residues in industrial waste cause serious problems as regards their disposal. They contain metals which have high potential for toxicity. Industrial activity also emits large amounts of arsenic fluorides and sulphur dioxide (SO2).  Fluorides are found in the atmosphere from superphosphate, phosphoric acid, aluminium, steel and ceramic industries. Sulphur dioxide emitted by factories and thermal plants may make soils very acidic. These metals cause leaf injury and destroy vegetation. Through industrial waste some elements can accumulate in soil like Copper, mercury, cadmium, lead, nickel, arsenic etc.

Organic waste from industrial dispose seriously affects human health, plants and animals. Organic wastes contain borates, phosphates, detergents in large amounts. These elements affect the growth of plants. The main organic contaminants are phenol and coal. Asbestos, combustible materials, gases like methane, carbon dioxide, hydrogen sulphide, carbon monoxide, sulphur dioxide, petrol are also contaminants. The radioactive materials like uranium, thorium, strontium etc. also cause soil pollution. Microbial decomposition of organic wastes generates large quantities of methane that pollute the soil and water flowing on its surface.

Heavy metals like cadmium, cobalt, chromium, copper, iron, nickel, lead, mercury, manganese etc. can cause soil pollution. Underground soil can be polluted by the deposition of cadmium, chromium, lead, arsenic, selenium etc.

Soil pollution can cause an imbalance of the ecosystem of the soil. The soil is an important habitat and is the house of different type of microorganisms, animals, reptiles, mammals, birds, and insects.

Thus, soil pollution can negatively impact the lives of the living organisms and can result in the gradual death of many organisms. It can cause health threats to animals grazing in the contaminated soil or microorganisms residing in the soil. Living, working or playing in the contaminated soil can lead to respiratory diseases, skin diseases, and other diseases. Moreover, it can cause other health problems.

Therefore, it is very important to educate people around us the importance of environment if they are not aware. Prevention of soil erosion will help to cease soil pollution. Thus, it is our small steps and activities that can help us to achieve a healthier planet for us. Therefore, it is essential for industries, individuals and businesses to understand the importance of soil and prevent soil pollution and stop the devastation caused to plant and animal life.

Author is a Student of Environmental Science and Engineering Department at  Jatiya Kabi Kazi Nazrul Islam University, Trishal, Mymensingh—2224, Bangladesh


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