Point Source Pollution


By Michael J. Lynch, University of South Florida, FL


Point source pollutant or a point source pollutant is a pollutant that comes from a singular, identifiable source. The term signifies that the pollutant under review or examination comes from a specific location. The term point source can apply to air, land and water pollution, and can be extended to other points sources of pollution including light pollution, noise pollution and thermal pollution.

The official US EPA definition of point source pollution is as follows: “any single identifiable source of pollution from which pollutants are discharged, such as a pipe, ditch, ship or factory smokestack.”

Factories are common sources of point source pollution. The term does not generally apply to pollution from agriculture. While agricultural pollution may have the farm as a general point source, farm pollution such as farm run-off occurs over a broad area, and instead is referred to as nonpoint source pollution. The exception to this classification involves some pollutants emitted by factory farms in particular because they are emitted through the use of pipeline, which is a pollution point source.

In the US, point source emissions into waterways are regulated under the Clean Water Act (see CWA) under the National Pollution Elimination System (NPDES). Air point source emissions are regulated under the Clean Air Act (see CAA).

In the US, air point source emission data can be mapped and viewed using the US EPA website (AIR POINT SOURCE).

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