Considering it poses significant risks to all of our health, safety and wellbeing, groundwater contamination is something the whole world needs to start taking more seriously.
To understand more thoroughly what groundwater contamination really is, here are 10 sources and causes of groundwater pollution.
Sources of Groundwater Pollution
First, there are two main types of sources through which pollutants enter the water environment: point and nonpoint sources.
1. Point source
This is an individual, identifiable origin of pollution. This can be a pipe or a drain through which an impurity enters the water resource through a direct route. These point sources encompass (but are not limited to) industrial plants, commercial businesses, or wastewater treatment plants.
2. Non-point sources
These are sources of pollution that have inputs and consequences which transpire over a broad area. As such, they are not merely ascribed to a single source. Instead of being an individual origin, they are usually a result of particular land usages. Examples of these are agricultural runoffs, urban runoffs, and atmospheric deposition.
Usually, non-point sources are transferred to the water source by rainfall or snowmelt flowing over and into the ground. While this water is moving, it gathers and transports pollutants it picks up along the way, ultimately depositing them into our groundwater.
Due to this process, non-point sources are a lot more challenging to control.
Now you know the two sources of groundwater contamination and pollution, it is time to focus on the causes, of which there are four: direct, indirect, human-made and natural.
Causes of Groundwater
1. Direct causes
The most prominent of direct causes are hazardous waste and landfills.
If hazardous waste is disposed of incorrectly or clumsily, then there is a high likelihood that it will spill into the soil and the water. The horrifying thing is that once this has happened, it can never be undone and the spill can never be removed from the groundwater.
When landfills are enormous (and most of the time they are), the amount of groundwater polluted by them is notable. The longer a landfill remains full of waste, the more the toxins can seep into the soil below, leading to almost immediate contamination.
2. Indirect causes
Indirect causes include petroleum fuels and atmospheric pollutants.
As petroleum fuels pollute the atmosphere, they indirectly pollute the groundwater through the rain. Additionally, these fuels can cause further contamination when they are stored underground by leaking and then seeping into the ground around where they are.
However, it isn’t just petroleum fuels. If surface water becomes polluted for any reason, these pollutants will ultimately evaporate into atmospheric air and water and fall as acid rain.
3. Human-made causes
By now, it shouldn’t come as a shock that human-made reasons are a large part of contamination problems. There are two leading human-made causes: chemicals and pesticide.
People require the use of chemicals for a variety of reasons. All the salts and chemicals that are poured on roads, lawns, and other land areas often get washed away by natural rainfall and then flow into the soil, quickly contaminating groundwater.
Both ourselves and animals end up consuming this water, causing severe health problems.
Similar to chemicals, after being sprayed, pesticides often wash into the soil and are incredibly dangerous for consumption by all beings. Once they enter into our groundwater, they can never be removed entirely — not only damaging the environment but also causing severe health risks for people in the area as well.
4. Natural causes
The least problematic of these causes, natural causes (such as animal waste and arsenic) still affect water contamination.
In areas with an abundance of animal life, occasionally urine and feces can seep into the ground and cause some groundwater pollution. Without treatment, this groundwater is unsafe to drink. The good news is that these contaminants can be easily removed by water treatment facilities.
A rare cause that tends to only occur in mining areas, arsenic (which is naturally present in rocks) can also occasionally seep into groundwater. If there is too much arsenic in the groundwater, this can (of course) be lethal to any being who consumes it.
Luckily, regular water treatment can customarily eliminate arsenic from groundwater.
Preventing Groundwater Contamination
Everyone depends on groundwater which is the crucial natural resource that is vital to human health, essential for the wellness of the natural environment, and fundamental to the running of the global economy. It is a precious resource and commodity that needs to be protected to guarantee it remains usable.
There are various ways for businesses and communities alike to do their part. For example, construction firms can use inflatable packers in order to isolate specific zones for testing, pressure grouting, and geotechnical pump tests (to name a few).
Additionally, mining firms should use grout packers to provide a superior seal against grout bleed.
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