Curriculum Vocabulary

Vocabulary Terms

Unit 1: Household Contaminants
  • Bioaccumulation- the gradual accumulation over time of a substance (especially a contaminant) in a living organism
  • Persistent - persistent chemicals (sometimes called “forever chemicals”) are compounds that are resistant to environmental degradation
  • Toxic- poisonous (Note: Toxin refers to poisons produced naturally by plants, animals, and bacteria. Toxic refers to synthetic, man-made, poisonous chemicals)
  • Pharmaceutical- a compound manufactured for use as a medicinal drug
  • Endocrine disruptor- chemicals that mimic or interfere with the body's hormones, known as the endocrine system. These chemicals are linked with developmental, reproductive, brain, immune, and other problems.

Unit 2: Stormwater
  • Impervious surface - areas that prevent or impede the infiltration of stormwater into the soil. These are hard, and often man-made surfaces like roads, rooftops, parking lots, and driveways.
  • Infiltration - the process by which water on the ground surface enters the soil
  • Pervious surface - a surface that allows the percolation of water into the underlying soil, also known as porous or permeable surfaces
  • Runoff - the draining away of water (and pollutants carried in it) from the surface of the land, a building, structure, road, etc.
  • Storm drain - a drain that carries water (such as rainwater) away from a street, parking lot, or other impervious surface
  • Stormwater - water that originates from rain, including snow and ice melt. Stormwater can soak into the soil, be stored on the land surface in ponds and puddles, evaporate, or contribute to surface runoff.
  • Watershed - an area of land that drains all the streams and rainfall to a common outlet (e.g. the river). Watersheds can be as small as a footprint or large enough to encompass all the land that drains water into the tributaries of the Columbia and eventually the Pacific Ocean. The word watershed is synonymous with a drainage basin or catchment area.

Unit 3: Riparian Zones
  • Biofiltration - a pollution control filtration process where the filter consists of porous material (e.g., sand or gravel) which is colonized by microbial communities that capture and biologically degrade (breakdown) pollutants.
  • Ecosystem Services - the benefits people obtain from an ecosystem
  • Ecotone - a region of transition between two biological communities, often containing characteristics of both communities and may contain species not found in either of the overlapping communities
  • Riparian Buffer - the natural vegetation from the edge of the stream or river bank out through the riparian zone. Riparian buffers are the most valuable protection a stream system has against outside influences.
  • Water Quality - the degree to which water is clean, and whether it is suitable for various uses such as drinking, allowing plants to grow, or for fish to live in, etc.

Unit 4: Plastics
  • Biodegrade - to be decomposed by bacteria or other living organisms
  • Degradation - the process of objects breaking down
  • Photodegradation - degradation of a material by UV light
  • Plastics - manufactured chains of hydrocarbons called polymers. Hydrocarbons usually come from petroleum or natural gas.
  • Polyethylene - the most common type of plastic, with a wide variety of uses, including packaging, shopping bags, and clothes
  • Microbeads - small plastic beads used in personal care products such as toothpaste, body wash, and face wash. Microbeads are commonly made out of polyethylene and are designed to wash down the drain and are too small to be captured by water treatment facilities. Congress passed the Microbead-Free Waters Act of 2015, banning the manufacture and sales of personal care products with plastic microbeads.
  • Microplastics - plastic debris measuring less than 5mm, can be broken bits, fibers, or fragments
  • Weathering - Mechanical weathering is the process of breaking down materials into smaller pieces (by wind, waves, etc.)

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