West Virginia Conservation Agency  •  1900 Kanawha Blvd. E. •  Charleston, WV 25305  •  304-558-2204
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Pollution comes from various sources. These are referred to as point and non-point sources.

Point source pollution comes from a well-defined and typically known source, such as a pipe or smoke stack. Point source pollutants often are concentrated because they are discharged from a single, or several multiple, known sources. In other words, you can "point" to a source such as a discharge pipe from an industrial facility.

Most of the time a point source can be traced to pipes, smokestacks, sewage treatment plants, outfall pipes, ditches, channels, sewers, containers, or any type of conveyance vessel.

Sites of origination of non-point source pollution are much more difficult to define and sometimes cannot be identified with any great degree of certainty. Non-point source pollutants tend to be less concentrated because their sources are dispersed over a larger area. Non-point source (NPS) pollution, unlike pollution from industrial and sewage treatment plants, comes from many diffuse sources. NPS pollution is caused by rainfall or snowmelt moving over and through the ground. As the runoff moves, it picks up and carries away natural and manmade pollutants, finally depositing them into lakes, rivers, wetlands, coastal waters, and even our underground sources of drinking water. These pollutants include:
  • Excess fertilizers, herbicides, and insecticides from agricultural lands and residential areas;
  • Oil, grease, and toxic chemicals from urban runoff and energy production;
  • Sediment from improperly managed construction sites, crop and forest lands, and eroding streambanks;
  • Salt from irrigation practices;
  • acid drainage from abandoned mines;
  • Bacteria and nutrients from livestock, pet wastes, and faulty septic systems; and
  • Atmospheric deposition and hydromodification.

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