I am writing an article on wild water and have split "problems" into two categories: those that can be readily seen and those which cannot.

I have this definition for the word contaminant

a polluting or poisonous substance that makes something impure.

This seems to cover such as bacteria, viruses, and chemicals well. However, it does not work well for crocodiles, jellyfish, detritus, and sediment, say.

I'm also trying to crowbar rip tides, rocks, and entangling reeds in, but think they might be better served under the word "dangers", and they will be listed separately.

  • "Particulate matter" would get you detritus and sediment.
    – Hot Licks
    Commented Jan 20, 2017 at 13:30

3 Answers 3


I think you want 'visible' as an adjective to modify either contaminants or hazards.

Although there are no visible contaminants, the stream has a high level of fecal bacteria.

The visible hazards - rocks, debris, and large marine mammals - are actually less of a risk than the PCB spill.

Visible (MW)

capable of being seen

exposed to view

capable of being discovered or perceived

  • This seems the best answer, but would then require a modifier for the smaller. Commented Jan 20, 2017 at 13:27

Maybe biological/animal contaminants?

As for the rip tides, rocks, and entangling reeds, I think the better word would be hazards.

  • Hazards certainly works Commented Jan 20, 2017 at 11:47
  • "biological/animal contaminants" is certainly too wordy and would require addition of, say "macro/microscopic" to the other set since all of those are also biological. Commented Jan 20, 2017 at 11:49
  • Do you mean contaminated by crocodiles, jellyfish, detritus, and sediment as these animals are present? Or do you mean that these animals contaminate the area with their activity (poop, eating something etc.)? If its is the latter - maybe just animal contaminants otherwise it's worth to think further. Commented Jan 20, 2017 at 11:53
  • They are the "contaminant" Commented Jan 20, 2017 at 11:55
  • vermin wild animals which are believed to be harmful to crops, farm animals, or game, or which carry disease, e.g. rodents. "killed as vermin or game, the pumas have gone" parasitic worms or insects. "his clothes are infested with vermin" people perceived as despicable and as causing problems for the rest of society. "the vermin who ransacked her house" Will that be it? Commented Jan 20, 2017 at 12:14

The conclusion, with assistance, replace the overarching term Contaminants with Dangers, then split that into Hazards, Wildlife, Particulates and then Pathogens and Chemicals.

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