WATER QUALITYThe Most Common Problems of Groundwater Pollution

March 14, 2022

More than half of people in the U.S. use groundwater for drinking water. Groundwater is used widely for irrigation in many parts of the country. Unfortunately, while it’s so important, groundwater can be polluted.

Pollution or contamination in groundwater can come from many sources. Some are man-made, some are natural. Frequent pollutants include gas, oil, salt, chemicals, pesticides, mining toxins, waste, septic waste and landfill run-off. Substances can go directly into water, in streams, rivers or lakes. Some substances can go through land and into groundwater. This pollution can make it unsafe for consumption or any human usage.

The Most Common Problems from Polluted Groundwater

Drinking contaminated groundwater can lead to major health problems. Illnesses such as hepatitis and dysentery may be from contaminated water being contaminated by septic tank or sewage waste. Poisoning can happen from toxins that have run into well water. Wildlife can be hurt by polluted groundwater. Other long-term results such as particular types of cancers may likewise come from direct exposure to or consumption of polluted water.

Sources of Groundwater Pollution

Substances can go directly into water, in streams, rivers or lakes. Some substances can go through land and into groundwater.

  • Tanks

Storage tanks for gas, oil, chemicals or other hazardous material can be above ground or underground. There are more than 10 million such storage tanks in the U.S. These tanks or components in, running out of them or near them can corrode, leak or spill. If these materials, chemicals or liquids get into groundwater it is a serious contamination.

  • Septic Systems

Septic systems and tanks are made to gradually drain away human waste underground at a safe, slow and harmless speed. An incorrectly built, located or serviced septic system can leak bacteria, infections, chemicals, and other waste into groundwater and be a significant problem for that property and potentially a whole region.

  • Hazardous Waste

There are more than 20,000 abandoned or unregulated sites with hazardous waste in the U.S. These materials can contaminate groundwater. Even without bad leaks or spills, these contaminants can eventually get into the soil which will eventually lead to being in groundwater.

  • Landfills

Trash is buried at landfills. Landfills are supposed to have a protective layer on the ground to stop contaminants from seeping into the ground, then groundwater. If there’s no layer, or there’s damage or a leak to the material, pollution can still go from a landfill into groundwater.

  • Chemicals

Chemicals, road salts, fertilizers, pesticides and other agricultural or household solutions can end up in water or the soil, which will then reach gro

The Most Common Problems of Groundwater Pollution

undwater. Road salt, used a bunch in the winter on icy, snowy roads, is washed away and runs into water.

  • Organic Pollutants

Groundwater is a natural part of the organic water cycle, so impurities anywhere in the cycle will be in groundwater. Air pollution can gather in what become acid or polluted rainfall. Pollution in surface water can eventually be found in groundwater.

  • Natural Sources

Natural substances can be contamination. Natural minerals or matter in soil or rocks can be sulfates, iron, fluoride, arsenic, chloride and more. Decaying natural material can pollute groundwater, especially underground water. Reports show the two most common contaminants are fluoride and arsenic.

The natural sources of pollution in groundwater can be tested with the Groundwater Assessment Platform (GAP). This test finds the contamination level by finding and using the environmental, geological and topographical data.

Effects from Polluted Groundwater

  • Health Issues

Polluted groundwater has serious health effects. In areas with failing or poorly-built septic tanks and systems, the human waste can potentially pollute the water source. The waste can cause hepatits, liver disease and more illness and disease. Polluted groundwater can cause dysentery, poisoning and more very serious health problems.

  • Economic Harm

Contaminated groundwater for a whole area, region or nation can make the area incapable of sustaining plant, animal or even human life. An area can experience declining population along with very destructive and costly health problems. Other effects may include a reduction in sustainable agriculture, declining industry and anything which needs safe water is impossible or harmful. Industries or businesses in the area which need clean water will have to get water from outside sources, which is likely very expensive.

  • Environment and Ecosystem Harm

Groundwater pollution can be a major cause of awful and long-lasting environmental change. One example would be the loss of necessary natural nutrients in clean water which are vital for countless parts of an ecosystem. When contaminants enter bodies of water or groundwater, negative changes to aquatic ecosystems may occur, this harms all of an environment and ecosystem for a larger area. Fish and other marine animals may die off from contaminated water. Any animals or plants in the system would be impacted. Hazardous materials can collect over time in natural water sources such as aquifers. These materials can spread into groundwater. The importance of this is even greater for people living in areas where they must depend on groundwater during droughts or other times or events.


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