Nitrogen pollution: Sources and consequences in the U.S. Northeast

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Nitrogen pollution is increasing in the Northeast and contributes to a wide array of environmental problems. As a single nitrogen molecule cascades through the environment, it contributes to air-quality degradation, acidification of soil and surface waters, disruption of forest processes, and overenrichment of coastal waters. Solving the nitrogen problem will require a multipronged approach. Computer model results show that the current Clean Air Act has not had a substantial effect on airborne nitrogen emissions and further reductions are needed to mitigate the impacts of high nitrogen deposition on sensitive ecosystems. Another computer model determined that nitrogen loading to estuaries in the Northeast is high and dominated by nitrogen discharged from wastewater treatment plants. Adding nitrogen control technology to treatment plants would significantly reduce nitrogen pollution in the region's estuaries. The results of this study show that policy efforts in the Northeast should include concentrated efforts to reduce airborne nitrogen emissions from vehicles and electric utilities and increased investment in improved wastewater treatment to address nitrogen pollution.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)8-22
Number of pages15
Issue number7
StatePublished - Sep 2003


Cite this

Driscoll, C. T., Whitall, D., Aber, J., Boyer, E., Castro, M., Cronan, C., Goodale, C., Groffman, P., Hopkinson, C., Lambert, K., Lawrence, G., & Ollinger, S. (2003). Nitrogen pollution: Sources and consequences in the U.S. Northeast. Environment, 45(7), 8-22.