The HEAP-effect

The pollution time-bomb

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HEAP is an acronym for Hampered Effluent Accumulation Process.

The principle is easily understandable with a thought experiment: Imagine that you ladle sand on a table.

The same thing happens if an element without gaseous phases is continuously imported into a larger or smaller area. This concerns phosphorus, and other, more common elements.

However, in this connection, phosphorus and nitrous oxide ions (e.g. NO3-) are especially important, because a leakage of these resources causes pollution. Furthermore, NO3- is more soluble than the PO4- -ion, so this is why lekage will be more obvious earlier.

Also, phosphorus is a limiting (and limited) resource with an accessibility on about 130 years with the energy price of today.
Increases in the cost of energy may also limit the availability of mined resources considerably.

This means that a crowd of consumers (humans, pigs) collected in one place will inevitably cause pollution

The HEAP-effect might be/is specially obvious in two structural sites of our society:

1. In population centers, e.g. towns or cities, where food (containing phosphorus and nitrogen) is constantly imported, and the exports are hampered by converting pollutants to sludge in the wastewater purification plants. The sludge is subsequently put on landfills or agricultural land adjacent to the city.
Since the food is imported from a larger area, the HEAP will build up faster the more efficient the wastewater plants are. This is also an important issue in the discussion of heavy metals
2. In areas with import agriculture, i.e. where animal food is imported and manure form the animals are accumulated. Examples of such area in Sweden are areas of intesive pig farming in the drainage areas of the rivers Lagaån, Helgeån and Braån. In these areas, also about 60% of the Swedish milk production is situated. The area with the highest animal density in Sweden is Listerlandet, a peninsula reaching into the bay of Hanö, which share severe pollution problems with the bay of Laholm on the west coast, where the far-strethching river Lagaån river flows into.

This effect is further described in:

The general principle is described in:

  • von Bertalanffy, L., 1973. General Systems Theory Penguin.
  • Odum, H. T., 1983. Systems Ecology Wiley, New York (where it is called von Bertalanffy-growth)



Grey water

Why phosphorus recycling is necessary

The MIFSLA attitude

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