Analysis of water quality downstream of Atlanta shows that some pollutants from the city are still detectable more than 500 kilometers away.
Atlanta, one of the fastest growing metropolitan areas in the eastern United States, already sprawls across an area larger than the state of Delaware and is home to more than 3.8 million people. Upstream from Atlanta, the water in the Chattahoochee River is clean; downriver, the chemical signs of human habitation and industrial activity abound, says W. Berry Lyons, a hydrologist at Ohio State University in Columbus.
For example, each upstream liter of river water contains about 2.0 milligrams of nitrate ions, 2.5 mg of chloride ions, and 0.2 micrograms of dissolved copper. Downstream of the city, the concentrations of these substances skyrocket–especially during summer, when low river flow doesn't dilute the city's pollutants as well as it does in winter. Concentrations of nitrate and chloride can jump about 7-fold to 13.5 an