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Author Topic: Are phosphates 'OK' in certain places...and where?  (Read 18910 times)

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Offline gellis

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Are phosphates 'OK' in certain places...and where?
« on: August 09, 2009, 09:24:51 pm »
I work for a company that produces mineral cleaners and wants to mitigate the effects of the phosphates in their product.  They have the idea that eutrophication due to phosphorus is not a problem in all waterways.  In essence, they would like to find a map of which geographic regions are most impacted by phosphorus pollution to educate consumers about which products are environmentally safe to use in their region. 
So far, I've found a great deal of maps listing costal eutrophication zones, but none of inland ponds, lakes or waterways.

First is there any scientific basis to this idea--is phosphorus a non-issue in particular regions, therefore permitting the use of phosphate detergents in the area?

Second, do further maps exist that document inland eutrophication zones?

Thanks for your time,

Offline cwicks

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Re: Are phosphates 'OK' in certain places...and where?
« Reply #1 on: August 10, 2009, 11:21:06 am »
Hi Greg,
Good question, but I don't know that there is a straight forward answer. I would Google Lake eutrophication and Lake phosphorus pollution to find some maps. Did you look at the EPA nutrient website? Total Maximum Daily Loads is also a good thing to search for (also EPA). And U.S. Geological Survey also has tons of maps.

From an ecosystem point of view, I doubt there's an area that it is ok to have phosphorus pollution - there always needs to be a balance. But, from a regulatory point of view, there are plenty of areas that do not have phosphate bans or limits in place.

Hope this helps,

Offline bfertig

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Re: Are phosphates 'OK' in certain places...and where?
« Reply #2 on: August 10, 2009, 12:00:37 pm »

Here's a short answer that's not so short: Freshwater ecosystems (lakes, ponds, rivers and other waterways) tend to be 'phosphorus limited'. This means that additions of phosphorus in the form of phosphates (which is the form that plants can incorporate and can therefore impact ecosystems) can lead to eutrophication in these types of ecosystems and regions. http://www.chesapeakebay.net/phosphorus.aspx?menuitem=19424

Estuarine and coastal areas tend to be 'nitrogen limited', meaning that nitrogen (nitrates, ammonia/ammonium) tends to be what leads to eutrophication. BUT, in both cases, BOTH phosphorus AND nitrogen are generally important and the addition of either can in some cases lead to eutrophication. Therefore, ecologically, neither element can be considered a 'non-issue'. Also, be aware that phosphorus readily binds to sediments, soils, and dirt, so when those enter waterways they can bring phosphorus with them, and under certain conditions that phosphorus can be released into the water as well, feuling more eutrophication.

For Maryland, the Department of Natural Resources routinely measures water quality along tidal streams and rivers, in addition to Chesapeake Bay. Their water quality data are available at http://www.dnr.state.md.us/Bay/monitoring/water/

The Chesapeake Bay Program has a map of overall stream water quality in the Chesapeake Bay watershed - http://www.chesapeakebay.net/status_watershedhealth.aspx?menuitem=26057