Groundwater Pollution

Water contained in the pores of soil or in aquifers is called groundwater. About 40 percent of U.S. municipal water comes from groundwater and an additional forty million people, including most of the rural population, draw drinking water from domestic wells. Groundwater, while protected by the filtering action of soil, can be contaminated by leaking municipal landfills, sewage lagoons, and chemicals from industrial activity. Centers for Disease Control data shows that 318 waterborne disease outbreaks associated with groundwater systems occurred between 1971 and 1996. Leaking underground oil tanks and spills at gas stations account for oil and other chemicals such as benzene and methyl-tertiary-butyl ether (MBTE) found in ground-water. More than 400,000 leaking underground storage tanks were reported in the United States in 2001. Pesticides and agricultural fertilizers drain into groundwater polluting it with carcinogenic chemicals and nitrates.

The Safe Drinking Water Act of 1974 (SWDA) regulates groundwater. More than eighty possible contaminants are monitored, including carcinogens such as tetrachloroethylene, discharged from dry cleaners. Health effects of these contaminants range from increased cancer risk, intestinal lesions, kidney damage, and reproductive difficulties, to gastrointestinal distress. Municipal and private water suppliers are responsible for seeing that contaminants do not exceed the limits set by the EPA.

aquifer an underground geological formation, or group of formations, containing water; are sources of groundwater for wells and springs

Continue reading here: Human and Environmental Health Effects

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