Although the United States has cleaned up its act against improperly disposing and/or taking care of toxins that are harmful to the environment, there are a few areas we could improve upon. Groundwater contamination is one of the biggest environmental hazards to those living in the U.S. today. Groundwater accounts for over 95% of our available fresh water resources, and roughly half the population uses it as their main source of drinking water.
What is Groundwater? Groundwater is water that is found below the surface; it saturates the space in the earth and can be extracted using a variety of methods. Roughly 40% of the nation’s population uses groundwater as their drinking water. Farmers often use groundwater to irrigate their crops, while industrial sites use it to produce goods. Groundwater is usually clean because it has been filtered through various layers of soil and rock, yet due to human activity it becomes polluted.
What is Groundwater Remediation? This is the process of eliminating pollution from the groundwater using various techniques. Remediation and other environmental cleanup services generate roughly $18 billion every year in the U.S. Although this number indicates a growing industry to help clean the environment, the Department of Energy has estimated that there are still an estimated 6.5 trillion liters of contaminated groundwater in the country.
How Does Groundwater Contamination Occur? Groundwater contamination occurs when biological hazards (diseases, animal and human waste, etc.), chemical waste, and nuclear waste eventually trickle down into the groundwater supply. Specific contaminants include:
- Industrial spills
- Urban runoff
- Leaks from landfills
More than 80% of the most serious hazardous waste sites in the nation have negatively impacted the quality of nearby groundwater sources. In order to combat the contamination and to restore usable groundwater, groundwater remediation is needed.
Groundwater Remediation Techniques: Around 400 billion gallons of fresh water are used in the U.S. every day, and in order to sustain this usage, remediation techniques are instilled. There are three main techniques:
- Biological treatments, which involves groundwater remediation systems that contain bacteria that clean the water.
- Chemical treatments, which includes certain chemicals that can separate hazardous materials or react with the toxins to negate their affect.
- Physical treatments, which requires manpower and machinery to pump out the contaminated water in order to treat it.
Most of the time, multiple groundwater remediation methods are used in order to ensure the safest drinking water possible.