How Does Groundwater Become Contaminated?
Ground water is rain water or water from surface water bodies that soak into the soil and bedrock and is stored underground in tiny spaces between rocks and particles of soil.
Practically any activity where chemicals or wastes are released to the environment, whether it is intentional or accidental, has the potential to pollute groundwater. Groundwater contaminants can be found naturally in rocks or soils such as iron, manganese, arsenic, chlorides, fluorides, or sulfates.
These natural resources can dissolve into the ground water causing pollution. Depending on local conditions any of the naturally occurring substances, like organic decaying matter can move into our ground water as particles.
Not only can natural substances contribute to contamination, but numerous types of human activity have played a massively larger role.
Unnatural Sources Of Groundwater Contamination
One of the main sources of groundwater contamination in the U.S. is the widespread use of septic tanks and septic tank cleaners. Septic tanks that are improperly sited, designed, constructed, or maintained can contaminate ground water with bacteria, viruses, nitrates, detergents, oils and chemicals.
If a water supply well is near a source of contamination that well runs the risk of becoming contaminated as well as any surface water near contamination.
However, septic tanks aren’t the only source of human induced contamination. The improper disposals of hazardous waste such as disposing of oils (e.g cooking or motor), disinfectants, medicines, paints and paint thinners etc., contribute in polluting the groundwater.
Numerous unnatural sources such as, releases and spills from stored chemicals and petroleum products, landfills, sewers, pesticide and fertilizer use etc., have contributed to the severe contamination of groundwater.
Approximately, 4 million underground storage tanks exist in the United States and, over the years, the contents of many of these tanks have leaked and spilled into our environment.
Health Risks Related to Groundwater Contamination
Since thousands of synthetic chemicals have the potential to contaminate ground water our drinking water contains bacteria and viruses which can result illnesses such as, hepatitis cholera, “blue baby syndrome”, Benzene, a component of gasoline, which is a known human carcinogen etc. Preventing these hazardous chemicals from reaching groundwater is the only way to reduce health risks associated with poor water quality.