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The History Of Pollution In New York City

1559 words - 7 pages

Introduction
New York City has unique benefits in that there are tremendous amounts of people who live within close proximity to each other. This has resulted in higher uses of mass transit systems (such as: subways and buses). On average, New York’s total environmental footprint is 7.1 metrics tons per person annually. This is much lower than national average of 24.5 metric tons. The city contributes 1% of the total amount of greenhouse gases emitted into the atmosphere for the United States each year. (“Inventory Greenhouse of New York City,” 2007) (Jarvey, 2006)
In spite of these benefits and lower levels of carbon emission, New York City was named the dirtiest city for 2012 in Travel and Leisure magazine. They cited poor air quality, water and large amounts of trash everywhere. This is problematic, as New York has been trying to consistently reduce the overall amounts of pollution for many decades. These conclusions are ignoring the positive transformations and how they have impacted New York. To fully understand what is taking place requires studying the history of pollution, its affects, causes, reasons and areas of improvement. Together, these elements will highlight the overall scope of these transformations and their impact on the quality of life inside the city. (Brown, 2012) (“Inventory Greenhouse of New York City,” 2007) (Jarvey, 2006)
A Timeline of Pollution
New York first started to experience pollution problems during the late 18th century. This is when the city was becoming a major center for trade and commerce. What made it such an ideal location is the area was surrounded by various fresh water ports. This made it easier for ships to access the port any time of year. (Waldman, 2013) (Jarvey, 2006)
As the city began to grow, it started to experience water pollution issues. This is because most people were dumping their sewage and other waste into rivers. To make matter worse the cramped neighborhoods meant that there was no effective waste disposal system. In the 1860s, the city began to build its own sewage and water system. This was the first step towards dealing with issues which are negatively impacting the environment. (Waldman, 2013) (Jarvey, 2006)
However, by the 1890s it was clear that this was a problem which was becoming worse. To deal with these challenges the Metropolitan Sewage Commission began to monitor the quality of water and disposal of waste. They surveyed the New York Harbor and determined that it was filled with a black sludge at the bottom. This is the result of years of contamination that built up. In the decades following, they worked to continuously improve these standards and enforce them on the local level. Once the Clean Water Act was passed, is when these standards became common throughout the nation. This law adopted the provisions that were focused on by the Metropolitan Sewage Commission. Most notably: all lakes, rivers, streams and ponds must be fishable. This ensured improved...

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