Protecting our Environment: Land, Air, and Water Pollution
Middle Tennessee treasures its beautiful open spaces. Our landscape is part of our history. We must be diligent to ensure that it remains part of our future.
With 1,000,000 new people projected to call Middle Tennessee home by 2035, there is no question that we must plan for conservation the way we currently plan for development, and that we must protect our natural assets by reducing Middle Tennessee’s levels of air, land, and water pollution. By supporting those Middle Tennessee nonprofits specializing in environmental initiatives – and by each pledging to live a “greener” lifestyle – we can start to make a difference. Whether we live in an apartment or home, these small choices can help create a healthier, cleaner and safer environment for everyone.
Combating pollution in our area will take more than picking up discarded trash from the sides of our roadways; it means looking to the water and air, as well as the land. Davidson County alone hosts approximately 2,500 total miles of streams. Of these, an astounding 350 miles were placed on the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) list of “impaired” waters in 2009 – meaning that pollution has altered properties of the water to the extent that it does not meet quality standards and cannot meet its designated uses. Pollutants such as siltation and suspended solids are two of the leading causes of impairment in Tennessee streams; these impact streams by eliminating habitat, blocking light penetration, and smothering aquatic life.
Our dependence on cars results in ground-level ozone and particle pollution which affects human health and well-being by reducing lung function; causing wheezing, coughing, shortness of breath and asthma; and triggering asthma attacks. Everyone is at risk of experiencing the adverse effects of ground-level ozone, but those with heart or lung disease, children, the elderly, and those who are active outdoors are at greater risk.
These pollutants pose a serious risk not only to the protection of trees and plants, but to the public health of Middle Tennessee residents. The rate of asthma deaths among Davidson County adolescents and adults ages 15 to 34 in 2007 represented a 4-fold increase from the 2003 rate, and was almost 12 times higher than our Healthy People 2010 goal.
In 2004, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency designated all or parts of 18 counties in Tennessee as “non-attainment” areas for ozone, meaning that ozone-related air pollution levels consistently exceed federal air quality guidelines. Five of those 18 counties are here in Middle Tennessee.
The region regained attainment status, but the EPA has since strengthened ozone standards, leaving us again at risk of being designated a non-attainment area. The Clean Air Partnership has ramped up its efforts to get the community involved in reducing the ozone level and improving air quality in Middle Tennessee. Working toward meeting this new standard will improve public and environmental health, increasing the quality of life in Middle Tennessee.
The biggest challenge to stemming land, water, and air pollution lies in getting people and businesses to care enough to change their behaviors. Adopting smart-growth practices, recycling, planting trees and modifying transportation habits will bring long lasting change to our region. Nonprofit organizations in Middle Tennessee working on these issues everyday need your help! Let’s keep Tennessee green.
How You Can Help:
Reduce transportation-related pollution in Middle TN: