What to Know About Groundwater Contamination and Your Safety
Groundwater is heavily relied on in the United States. In fact, over 50% of the country relies on groundwater, according to the Groundwater Foundation. While water is essential to life, it can become life-threatening if contaminated. Here, the experienced environmental attorneys at Peter Angelos Law provide insight into potential sources of groundwater contamination and what legal action may be taken if you have been impacted by groundwater contamination.
Overview of Groundwater Contamination
Groundwater contamination is the result of man-made products such as gasoline, oil, or chemicals polluting the groundwater, rendering it unsafe or unfit for human consumption. These hazardous materials can taint groundwater through spills, run-off, or leaks from landfills or septic tanks. When the contamination leeches into the soil, it eventually will pollute the earth’s natural water table. This water table contains the water that will be drawn up through man-made wells for human consumption.
Sources of Groundwater Contamination
It is important to understand the main sources of groundwater contamination, especially if your property or community is closely linked to one. Below are the six most impactful sources of groundwater contamination:
Storage tanks may contain substances such as gasoline, oil, chemicals, or other hazardous liquids and can either be placed above or buried below ground. According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), approximately 554,000 underground storage tanks contain petroleum or another hazardous substance. Over time, these storage tanks have a greater risk of corrosion, cracking, or leaking. If the materials inside the tank seep into the groundwater, serious contamination can occur.
Septic systems are utilized by homes, offices, or other buildings not connected to a city sewer system. When installed and used properly, septic systems slowly drain away human waste underground at a slow, harmless rate. However, if a septic system is not operating properly or is installed too close to a drinking water well, contaminants from the wastewater can make it into the groundwater.
Uncontrolled Hazardous Waste Sites
According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), an uncontrolled hazardous waste site is defined as “a site where an accumulation of hazardous substances creates a threat to the health and safety of individuals or the environment or both.” Examples of hazardous waste sites include surface impoundments, landfills, dumps, and tank or drum farms. While all these sites could potentially lead to groundwater contamination, the risk of groundwater contamination is exponentially increased when they are uncontrolled.
Many communities are built near landfills. A large pit where garbage is taken to be buried, landfills are supposed to be constructed with a protective bottom layer to prevent contaminants from getting into the water. However, if there is no layer or the layer is cracked, contaminants from the landfill can seep into the groundwater. This is especially problematic, as contaminations from landfills can contain car battery acid, paint, household cleaners, and other dangerous substances.
Pesticides, Chemicals, and Road Salts
Road salts and pesticides are commonly applied in the United States. In fact, more than 18 million metric tons of road salts are applied in the U.S. annually. Each year, roughly 1 billion pounds of pesticides are applied in the U.S. While these substances have allowed us to evolve as a society, they have also had harmful impacts on our groundwater. When they run-off the roads or fields they are applied to, they seep into the soil and contaminate the groundwater.
Groundwater is a key component of the hydrologic cycle, and contamination of other elements in this cycle can have an impact on groundwater. Acid rain or the pollution of large bodies of water will eventually lead to the contamination of groundwater.
Effects of Groundwater Contaminations
If contaminated groundwater is ingested, it can have dangerous impacts on a person’s health. Contaminated groundwater can be a breeding ground for bacteria and diseases. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), germ outbreaks such as Shigella, Hepatitis A, Norovirus, Giardia, Campylobacter, E. Coli, Cryptosporidium (a parasite), and Salmonella can all result from groundwater contamination.
The result of these outbreaks can lead to serious health problems such as diarrhea, reproductive problems, and nervous system disorders. Infants, young children, pregnant women, the elderly, and people whose immune systems are weakened because of HIV/AIDS, chemotherapy, or transplant medicines may be more likely to be affected.
Parties Liable for Groundwater Contamination
Groundwater contamination can lead to severe illness and health problems. Many environmental laws are put into place at the state and national levels to help prevent contamination. As a result, any parties found violating these laws may face legal action—both in the form of criminal and civil lawsuits if they are found liable. It is important that you consult with an experienced environmental attorney, as they can aid with navigating the complexities of environmental law.
Consult with an Experienced Baltimore Environmental Attorney Today
The harmful effects of groundwater contamination can lead to illness, medical bills, and missed time at work. Because of this, if you have been impacted by groundwater contamination, you may be entitled to compensation. Our team of experienced environmental lawyers at Peter Angelos Law can offer guidance and support as you navigate your case. Call us today or fill out the form below for a consultation.