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Swamps and marshes once covered vast stretches of the North American landscape. The destruction of these habitats, long seen as wastelands that harbored deadly disease, accelerated in the twentieth century. Today, the majority of the original wetlands in the US have vanished, transformed intofarm fields or buried under city streets.In The Marsh Builders, Sharon Levy delves into the intertwined histories of wetlands loss and water pollution. The book's springboard is the tale of a years-long citizen uprising in Humboldt County, California, which led to the creation of one of the first U.S. wetlands designed to treat citysewage. The book explores the global roots of this local story: the cholera epidemics that plagued nineteenth-century Europe; the researchers who invented modern sewage treatment after bumbling across the insight that microbes break down pollutants in water; the discovery that wetlands act asefficient filters for the pollutants unleashed by modern humanity.More than forty years after the passage of the Clean Water Act launched a nation-wide effort to rescue lakes, rivers and estuaries fouled with human and industrial waste, the need for revived wetlands is more urgent than ever. Waters from Lake Erie and Chesapeake Bay to China's Lake Taihu aretainted with an overload of nutrients carried in runoff from farms and cities, creating underwater dead zones and triggering algal blooms that release toxins into drinking water sources used by millions of people. As the planet warms, scientists are beginning to design wetlands that can shieldcoastal cities from rising seas. Revived wetlands hold great promise for healing the world's waters.
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