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Categories of Pollution: Point Source

Categories of Pollution: Point Source

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) defines point source pollution as “any single identifiable source of pollution from which pollutants are discharged, such as a pipe, ditch, ship or factory smokestack” (Hill, 1997).

Factories and sewage treatment plants are two common types of point sources. Factories, including oil refineries, pulp and paper mills, and chemical, electronics and automobile manufacturers, typically discharge one or more pollutants in their discharged waters (called effluents). Some factories discharge their effluents directly into a waterbody. Others treat it themselves before it is released, and still others send their wastes to sewage treatment plants for treatment. Sewage treatment plants treat human wastes and send the treated effluent to a stream or river.

Another way that some factories and sewage treatment plants handle waste material is by mixing it with urban runoff in a combined sewer system. Runoff refers to stormwater that flows over surfaces like driveways and lawns. As the water crosses these surfaces, it picks up chemicals and pollutants. This untreated, polluted water then runs directly into a sewer system.