Gulf of Mexico
water pollution
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in Chapter 2
2 A Brief History of the Urbanization of H2O

In the late 1800s, municipal water authorities in Hamburg, London, and Lawrence, Massachusetts relocated drinking water intakes upstream from polluting industrial and agricultural sources and perfected water filtration and wastewater treatment methods (e.g. sand filters, microbes as a way to break down the organic wastes, Imhoff tanks) to reduce the pathways for waterborne diseases. At the time, urban planners and scientists saw no need to protect downstream communities from upstream polluters because it was thought that naturally flowing water would break down any and all wastes through a process of ‘self-purification’(Streeter, 1930). As we know today, agricultural waste and raw sewage contains organic matter rich solids that breed oxygen-consuming bacteria that can kill aquatic flora and fauna when dumped in excessive amounts into waterways, creating dead zones such those in the Baltic Sea and at the mouth of the Mississippi River in the Gulf of Mexico.