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Groundwater is the leading source of drinking water for more than 50% of Americans. Therefore, groundwater is also one of our most critical water irrigation sources.

Unfortunately, groundwater is subject to pollutants. Groundwater pollution occurs when human-made products, such as gasoline, oil, road salt, and chemicals, enter groundwater and make it unsafe and unfit for human use. In addition, the material on the ground surface may travel down the soil and eventually reach groundwater.

For instance, pesticides and fertilizers may eventually make it to groundwater supplies. Road salt, toxic substances from mine sites, and used motor oil also may leach into the groundwater. In addition, it is possible that untreated sewage from retention ponds, toxic chemicals from underground tanks, and leaked dumps can pollute groundwater.

Drinking contaminated groundwater has severe health effects. Diseases like hepatitis and dysentery may occur due to contaminants in the waste of the septic tanks. In addition, poisoning can occur due to toxins leaching into the well’s water supply.

Wildlife can also be affected by contaminated groundwater. Other long-term effects, such as some types of cancer, may also occur due to contaminated water.

They can contain gasoline, oil, chemicals, or other fluids and may be present either above ground or below. Over 10 million storage tanks are reported to be underground throughout the United States., and with time, tanks may rust, crack, and leak. If contaminants leak into groundwater, severe contamination may result.

On-site sewage treatment systems are used in homes, offices, or other buildings not connected to a municipal sewer system. Sewage systems are designed to slowly flush out human waste into the ground at a slow, non-harmful rate. An improperly designed, located, constructed, or maintained septic system could release bacteria, viruses, home chemicals, and other contaminants into groundwater, leading to significant problems.

Reports indicate there are more than 20,000 identified hazardous waste sites that are unmonitored and abandoned in the United States, with that number growing each year. Hazardous waste sites can cause contamination in the groundwater if barrels or other containers are left lying around with dangerous materials. In addition, those contaminants could wash through the soil and groundwater if a leak occurs.

Landfills are places that carry our trash out for burial. Landfills are supposed to have a protective layer at the bottom, so contaminants do not enter the water. The extensive use of chemicals and road salt is another source of potential groundwater contamination. Chemicals include products used in lawns and agricultural fields to kill weeds and insects, fertilize plants, and other products used at homes and businesses.

When it rains, these chemicals can leach into the soil and water. For example, road salt is used during winter to melt the ice on roads, so cars do not slide. As the ice melts, salt is washed off streets and ends up in the water. In addition, because groundwater is part of the hydrologic cycle, contaminants from other parts of the process, like the atmosphere or bodies of surface water, may be transported to our groundwater supplies.


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What is Groundwater?

Groundwater is water found below ground, in cracks and spaces in soil, sand, and rocks. It is stored and moves slowly in the geologic formations of soil, sand, and rock called aquifers. Groundwater is used as drinking water for 50% of people in the U.S., especially those who live in rural areas. However, the most critical use of groundwater is to irrigate crops. The region where water fills an aquifer is called the saturated area (or saturated area).

The upper part of this zone is called the water table. The water table may sit just one foot beneath the earth’s surface or hundreds of feet down. The region where the water accumulates in an aquifer is called the saturated area (or saturated area). The upper part of this zone is called the water table. Again, the water table may sit just one foot beneath the surface of the earth, or it could sit hundreds of feet down.

Aquifers are usually made up of gravel, sand, sandstone, or fractured rocks such as limestone. Water can flow through these materials because they have big, connected spaces, making them porous. The groundwater flow rate depends on how big an area is in the soil or rock and how well that space is connected. Groundwater can be found just about anywhere. The depth and level of the groundwater are both variable.

Heavy rainfall or melting snow can raise the water table, or a large groundwater injection can lower it. Groundwater supplies are recharged, or recharged, from rains and snowmelt, which flows into the cracks and fissures below the ground surface. In some areas of the world, humans face severe water shortages as groundwater is consumed more rapidly than is replenished naturally. In other areas, groundwater is contaminated by human activities. Water in groundwater is brought to the surface naturally by a spring, or it may be released to lakes and streams.

A well can be drilled into an aquifer to get groundwater out of it as well. A well is a groundwater-filled hole in the ground. A pump can be used to raise this water to the surface. However, a shallow well may dry if the water table falls below the floor. Some wells, called artesian wells, do not require pumps due to the natural pressures forcing the water up and out of the well.

Contaminants can easily seep into groundwater supplies in areas where material above the groundwater is permeable. In addition, groundwater may be contaminated by landfills, retention ponds, leaking underground gas tanks, and excessive use of fertilizers and pesticides. If groundwater becomes contaminated, it is no longer safe to drink. So, how dependent are we on groundwater?

Groundwater supplies drinking water to 51% of the U.S. population and 99% of rural residents. In addition, groundwater helps to grow our food, is a vital part of many industrial processes, and is the recharge source of lakes, rivers, and wetlands.

The Hydrologic Cycle

Water is in flux all the time. Since the Earth was formed, it has been moving around indefinitely in a hydrologic cycle. Groundwater is a significant component of this ongoing cycle because water evaporates, forms clouds, and returns to Earth in precipitation. So how does the hydrological cycle work?

Surface water evaporates due to solar energy. The water vapor then forms clouds in the sky. Depending on the temperature and weather conditions, water vapor condenses and falls on Earth in various types of rainfall (rain, snow, sleet, hail).

Some precipitation moves from higher areas to lower areas of the Earth’s surface and to surface water bodies. This is known as the surface flow of water. Other rainfall runs off the ground and is stored as groundwater.

This process is called evaporation, when water in the soil, plants, and groundwater bodies turns to water vapor. This unseen vapor, much of it coming from the world’s oceans, rises in the atmosphere and condenses, creating clouds. Vapors in clouds condense ever more until they become droplets of water. The water vapor continues to reduce with the water droplets until they are too heavy to remain aloft anymore.

The water falls to Earth through rainfall, hail, sleet, and snow. When the precipitation hits the surface of the Earth, part of it will run off along the land surface, into surface waters, such as lakes, streams, and rivers, as runoff.

The rest will sink into the ground, or seep out, called recharge. The water then moves downwards through the soil like groundwater, storing it in aquifers. Once the water has joined the aquifer, it does not stop there.

Groundwater moves slowly across spaces and cracks among the soil particles as it travels downhill. This underground movement of water is called groundwater flow. Eventually, after years of activity underground, the groundwater comes to the drainage basin, where it flows into the lake or stream, becoming surface water.

There, the water will be evaporated, starting the cycle again. Water has been transported in the process for millions of years and will continue that cycle forever. In the water cycle, water is in constant motion.

What is a well?

A well is a hole cut in the earth to reach the water contained within the groundwater aquifer. The water is drawn underground by a pipe and pump, and any foreign objects that can clog a line are removed by a filter.. Wells are of various shapes and sizes, depending on what material is being drilled in and how much water is being pumped. More than 42 million people in the U.S. are using private, or private, wells to provide their families with water. Bored or sand-filled wells are typically bored to reach a non-confined source, commonly found at depths of 100 feet or shallower.

Consolidated or bluff-rock wells are drilled in a bed composed solely of a natural rock formation, which contains no soil and does not give way. Their average depth is approximately 250 feet. Unconsolidated, or sandy, wells: are bored through formations composed of dirt, sand, gravel, or clay materials, which have eroded. All privately owned wells are built by setting up a suitable location for the well, properly sizing the system, and selecting appropriate construction techniques. Only a professional, well-construction contractor should be installed.

They are knowledgeable about an area’s hydrology and all the local codes and regulations. Proper good construction is critical for the operation and maintenance of the well. A well is made up of several components. Casing: is used to keep open access into the ground but does not allow for any entry into or leaking water from surrounding formations to the well.

Common materials used for casing are black steel, galvanized steel, PVC tubing, and cement tubing. 

Grout: is a sealing agent used to seal off spaces around the exterior of a borehole. It protects the well from the infiltration of contaminants. The cement, bentonite, or cement mix may create a cement plug (each used separately).    

Screening: Keeps sand and gravel from entering a well while allowing groundwater and formation water into a well. Screens come in various materials, with stainless steel and hose, with slots being the most popular. The screen is used when drilling wells in unconsolidated materials. Gravel pads: These are placed around the outer edge of the screen to keep sand out of the wellbore or clog the screen and to help stabilize the wellbore assembly.

A well test can be easily contaminated if not constructed correctly or if toxic materials are released in a well. Toxic materials that are spilled or dumped near a well can leach into the groundwater aquifer and contaminate groundwater drawn from that well. Contaminated wells used for drinking water are hazardous. Wells can be tested to determine what chemicals, pathogens, and other contaminants might be present in a well and whether there are any in dangerous amounts.

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The Law May Limit The Time You Have To File a Ground Water Contamination Claim

Under the legal rule known as “the statute of limitations,” any claim stemming from ground water contamination must be filed within a specific period of time, otherwise, the injured person’s legal claims are barred, and their right to bring suit is lost for all time.

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