AP Environmental Science : Types of Pollution

Study concepts, example questions & explanations for AP Environmental Science

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Example Questions

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Example Question #401 : Ap Environmental Sciences

Which of the following would be best defined as a secondary pollutant?

Possible Answers:

Carbon monoxide is released into the atmosphere by automobiles from burning fossil fuels

Ozone that is formed in the atmosphere when hydrocarbons and nitrogen oxides interact and form a new molecule when exposed to sunlight

Ash and various other gases and organic particles that were released directly into the atmosphere from the Mount St. Helens eruption

Chemical fertilizers provide a needed source of nitrogen for growing crops, but one of the consequences is that some of the nitrogen is released into the atmosphere as nitrous oxide

Sulfur dioxide that is released into the atmosphere from burning coal that has high sulfur content

Correct answer:

Ozone that is formed in the atmosphere when hydrocarbons and nitrogen oxides interact and form a new molecule when exposed to sunlight

Explanation:

A secondary pollutant is the product of a primary pollutant already present in the atmosphere that has reacted with another substance in the open air. "Ozone" is a secondary pollutant because it is a product of hydrocarbons and nitrogen oxides (i.e. primary pollutants) that have reacted with one another in sunlight. "Carbon monoxide" from an automobile or "sulfur dioxide" from burning coal are primary pollutants, because they are released into the air by combustion, not by interacting with other molecules in the atmosphere.  

Example Question #402 : Ap Environmental Sciences

Which of the following would be the best example of non-point source pollution?

Possible Answers:

In the early days of oil discovery in America (i.e. the late nineteenth century), kerosene was in high market demand, while gasoline was considered a byproduct and regularly discarded into the nearby watershed. 

The noise pollution associated with the take-off and landing of commercial jets that proves a nuissance for residents nearby international and municipal airports. 

A textile company has a discharge pipe that expells wastewater containing toxic solvents into a public waterway. 

Millions of cigarette butts are discarded on public beaches, parks and waterways that harm fish and waterfowl that mistake them for food. 

Paper production in the United States takes part largely in East Coast cities, where their sulfur compound emissions create a horrible smell and deteriorate air quality. 

Correct answer:

Millions of cigarette butts are discarded on public beaches, parks and waterways that harm fish and waterfowl that mistake them for food. 

Explanation:

Point-source pollution is defined as pollutants that are derived from a specific source, such as a discharge pipe, ditch, canal, or smokestack. Pollutants sourced from a textile mill, paper mill, or oil refinery would fit this definition because the pollutants are originating from a specific source. Cigarette butts differ from the other possible answers because there is no specific point-source for their disposal. Millions of cigarette butts are discarded on beaches and waterways by millions of different people, and since there is no single point source for the pollution, this would be considered non-point source pollution. 

Example Question #403 : Ap Environmental Sciences

Tim is the Director of U.S. Operations atop a multinational oil and petroleum company, Company X. The United States refining facility is producing a liquid byproduct and Tim has made the executive decision to dispose of the waste product in the river that runs alongside the facility. To abide by federal law, Company X will need to apply for a discharge permit through the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES). Which specific federal law imposes the permitting system for point-source discharge of pollutants into "navigable waters"?

Possible Answers:

NEPA (National Environmental Policy Act)

CWA (Clean Water Act)

RCRA (Resource Conservation and Recovery Act)

ESA (Endangered Species Act)

CERCLA (Comprehensive Environmental Response Compensation and Liability Act)

Correct answer:

CWA (Clean Water Act)

Explanation:

ESA (Endangered Species Act) bans the sale and transport of endangered species and protects critical habitat but does not specifically focus on water pollution or permitting. RCRA (Resource Conservation and Recovery Act) addresses the permitting of waste storage and transport, while CERCLA (Comprehensive Environmental Response Compensation and Liability Act) establishes a superfund for polluted sites and holds polluting parties accountable. Regardless, neither of those two laws directly address the issue of point-source discharging into waterways. NEPA (National Environmental Policy Act) requires federal agencies to prepare Environmental Assessments and Impact Statements for federally-funded projects, but does not address the private sector.

The Clean Water Act (CWA) allows the EPA to regulate point-source discharge of pollutants into U.S. waterways and all "navigable waters." This piece of legislation also introduced the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (BPDES), which is responsible for point-source discharge permits. Any company operating in the United States that commits point-source discharge is held by these regulations outlined by the Clean Water Act.

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