Groundwater Pollution And Treatment

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Approximately one-half of all people in the United States depend on groundwater as their source of drinking water. We are therefore concerned about the introduction into aquifers of chemical elements, compounds, and microorganisms that do not occur naturally within the water. The hazard presented by a particular groundwater pollutant depends on several factors, including the volume of pollutant discharged, the concentration or toxicity of the pollutant in the environment, and the degree of exposure of people or other organisms.

Most of us have long believed that our groundwater is pure and safe to drink, so many of us find it alarming to learn that it may be easily polluted by any one of several sources. In addition, even the very toxic pollutants may be difficult to recognize.

Currently, the problem of groundwater pollution in the United States is becoming more apparent as water testing becomes more common. For example, Atlantic City, New Jersey, and Miami, Florida, are two eastern cities threatened by polluted groundwater that is slowly migrating toward their wells. It is estimated that 75 percent of the 175,000 known waste-disposal sites in the country may be producing plumes, or bodies of contaminated groundwater. Many of the chemicals found in our groundwater are toxic or suspected carcinogens. It therefore appears that we have been conducting a national large-scale experiment concerning the effects of chronic low-level exposure of people to potentially harmful chemicals! Unfortunately, the final results of the experiment will not be known for many years.1 3 Preliminary results suggest we had better act now before a hidden time bomb of health problems explodes.

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