Prevention and Abatement

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Once water is contaminated, it is difficult, expensive, and sometimes impossible to remove pollutants. Technologies to remove contaminants from groundwater are air stripping, granular activated carbon, and advanced oxidation. Air stripping involves pumping out the contaminated water, then heating it to evaporate the contaminant. The cleaned water is reinjected into the ground. Pumping out contaminated water and absorbing the pollutant on activated charcoal can remove less volatile compounds. Ninety percent of trichloroethylene was removed from NASA's launch complex thirty-four groundwater cleanup site on Cape Canaveral Air Force Station by thermal treatment. In this method an electric current heats soil and water, evaporating some water and the contaminant, which is carried out of the ground by the force of the steam and collected in recovery wells.

Preventing pollution is obviously important. Drinking water suppliers have discovered that watershed protection is cost-effective because it reduces pollution and cuts the cost of drinking water treatment. A watershed is the area that drains into surface or groundwater and keeping that area free from development and agricultural runoff are among the goals of watershed protection. The Barnes Aquifer in Massachusetts supplies water to sixty thousand residents and the aquifer's recharge area is under heavy development pressure from large-scale residential subdivisions. Municipal wells have been contaminated with traces of ethylene dibromide and trichloroethylene. After learning about watershed protection, citizens voted against proposed changes to zoning that would have increased the number of new homes and increased the potential for groundwater pollution. And by investing $1 billion in watershed protection, New York City, with an enormous reservoir system, has avoided having to build water-filtration facilities, saving construction costs of some $8 billion.

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