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Policy and legislative drivers relevant to groundwater management

When VOCs are spilled, they partially dissolve in the air, while the rest of the chemical leaks into the ground, tainting groundwater. Exposure to VOCs and heavy metals may increase the risk of cancer in humans. Road Salts Road salts are used to reduce ice formation and prevent slippery roads during winter. When snow and ice melt, the resulting water washes away the salts, which often end up in wetlands. Salty surface water can affect how freshwater organisms regulate the fluid that passes in and out of their bodies.

Contaminated groundwater is expensive to clean as current technology is not yet sufficient to address water pollution. Prevention is the most practical solution. Here are three methods for effective groundwater management practices:. Groundwater contamination is a serious global problem. Water scarcity puts lives at risk. In addition, many industries rely on water as a resource, which means water contamination threatens their supply chains.

Governments bodies, businesses, and communities should all take necessary action to protect this valuable resource. Our water management experts help organizations across industries understand, inventory and improve the role water conservation plays in their success. The monitoring data indicated that some landfills and open dumps were causing groundwater pollution.

Based on the data, and current state and federal regulations, all landfills are now required to have a composite liner system a plastic membrane on top of four feet of compacted clay and a leachate collection system to keep liquid waste out of the groundwater. Municipal dumps that did not meet design standards were closed prior to Wastewater, generated by municipalities, industries and farms may be treated or stored in ponds or lagoons.

Groundwater Protection | San Francisco Bay Reqional Water Quality Control Board

Many small communities operate lagoon systems for treating sanitary sewage through bacterial degradation of organic material in the wastewater. A manure lagoon on a dairy farm can hold waste until conditions are right for field application. Lagoons are sealed with compacted clay or plastic liners. Nevertheless, burrowing animals or soil movement can cause leaks. Routine inspections and maintenance are necessary to keep lagoons operating properly and to prevent contamination of groundwater. Some industries dispose of their wastewater by applying it to farm fields or to land specifically operated as a disposal system.

Most municipalities and some industries also apply sludge produced in their treatment systems to cropland as a nutrient and soil conditioner. The waste is applied according to how much water, solids and nutrients soil and crops can absorb. If the system isn't managed properly, and too much waste and water are applied to the land, or if the operator fails to adjust the amount applied to account for rainfall, groundwater and wells can be contaminated or the material may run off to surface waters.

There are more than , private onsite sewage systems private onsite wastewater treatment systems in Wisconsin — serving approximately 30 percent of all households in the state. Most of these systems are located in unincorporated areas.

Water quality

Here's how onsite sewage systems work: wastewater flows from the house to a settling tank where solids settle out. The liquid continues out to an absorption field consisting of a series of perforated pipes that drain away from the house. The liquid is then absorbed into the soil. Bacteria in the settling tank break down solid waste, leaving a sludge that needs to be removed periodically by a licensed septage hauler or "honey wagon.

When systems don't work properly, bacteria, nitrate, viruses, detergents, household chemicals and chloride may contaminate groundwater, nearby wells, and surface water. Even properly installed systems may pollute groundwater if they are not located, used, and maintained correctly. When paint thinners, degreasers, pesticides, dry cleaning chemicals, used oil, fertilizers, manure and a host of other hazardous materials trickle into the groundwater, they create a potential danger to the public and the environment. Accidents happen — over 1, spills of toxic or hazardous materials are reported each year in Wisconsin.

Volatile organic compounds VOCs such as petroleum products account for many of the spills in the state. Topping the list is diesel fuel. Other substances, such as pesticides, paint, and ammonia, make up the rest. Most spills occur at industrial facilities or during transport of hazardous substances.

Potential Sources of Groundwater Contamination

Response efforts focus on containing and removing the hazardous material to a proper disposal facility. This protects groundwater and surface waters. An undetermined number of spills go unreported, their presence a secret until area wells become polluted.

Assessment of groundwater quality

Although there are strict regulations governing transport, storage and disposal of toxic and hazardous wastes, illegal dumping continues. Problems from past practices that occurred before regulations were in place surface periodically. The threat to groundwater from these toxic products is real. That's why state and federal resources are devoted to finding these sites and cleaning them up. Many programs exist to clean up sites, from the federal Superfund program to address the worst sites in the nation, to the state cleanup program that includes spill response, leaking underground storage tanks, the state Superfund program, and a focus on cleaning up "brownfields" properties that have been abandoned or are underutilized because of actual or perceived contamination.

Groundwater Decline and Depletion

People in the environmental cleanup business call them LUSTs; for all of us, it spells trouble. Over the years, many old leaking underground storage tanks that used to hold gasoline, diesel and fuel oil have slowly corroded and released their contents into the soil and groundwater.

europeschool.com.ua/profiles/xorunofy/conocer-gente-gay-en.php About 18, of Wisconsin's older tank systems have leaked as rust and other factors took a toll on the tanks and dispensing lines. Even small leaks caused significant groundwater contamination; it takes only a little gasoline in water to make it undrinkable. Property owners and their environmental consultants have cleaned up contamination at over 16, sites during the past 20 years.

New regulations require existing tank systems to be upgraded. This will help prevent future problems. What happens to the old well can determine how the new well functions. If old wells are not properly filled with such impermeable materials as cement or bentonite clay they provide a direct channel for pollutants from the surface to groundwater and other nearby wells. Thousands of old wells that are no longer used, but still open at the soil surface threaten Wisconsin's groundwater. Whenever you see an old windmill in the country, it's likely there's an unused well underneath.

Licensed well drillers and pump installers are routinely hired to properly abandoned or fill old wells. Drainage wells draw water off a section of wet ground by piercing a clay layer, and allowing surface water to run directly into groundwater. Drainage wells have been prohibited in Wisconsin since , but they do turn up occasionally. When development occurs, recharge to groundwater can be short-circuited. Rainfall, instead of infiltrating, runs off pavement and collects in lakes rivers and streams.

Stream levels become more variable or "flashy," floods and channel erosion are more common, and groundwater recharge decreases. To put the hydrologic cycle to rights and preserve stream banks from washing out, Wisconsin requires that new developments infiltrate most of the stormwater falling on their site. Because stormwater from roofs, driveways, parking lots and streets contains contaminants such as gasoline, metals, and bacteria it must be cleaned up or pretreated before it is put back in the ground using engineered stormwater infiltration devices.

Minerals found naturally in soils and rocks dissolve in groundwater, giving it a particular taste, odor or color. Some elements, such as calcium and magnesium, are beneficial to health. Radium, radon gas, uranium, arsenic, barium, fluoride, lead, zinc, iron, manganese and sulfur are undesirable ingredients found in Wisconsin groundwater.

The levels of the contaminants depend on their concentrations in the aquifer and the amount of time the water has been in contact with them. Radioactive contaminants expose those drinking the water to risk of cancer. Public water systems are required to test groundwater for radioactivity. Recent sampling has detected radionuclides in some Wisconsin groundwater. Gross alpha activity and radium also have been found in Wisconsin water supplies. The EPA has drinking water standards for radium and radon.

Most natural contaminants aren't harmful, the problem is aesthetic rather than safety. Iron and manganese are found throughout the state. They stain plumbing and laundry, and can give drinking water an unpleasant taste and odor. Excess fluoride, sulfur, lead and arsenic are less common and more localized. Changes in the aquifer system, such as declining water levels, can cause chemical reactions that release the contaminants into the groundwater. In northeastern and western Wisconsin declining water levels have caused the release of arsenic and heavy metals.


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Arsenic is a known carcinogen and has been found at very high levels up to 15, parts per billion. Special well construction requirements have proven effective at avoiding the problem, but add greatly to the cost of getting a water supply. In some parts of Wisconsin the groundwater is naturally acidic and can corrode pipes and plumbing, leading to elevated levels of lead and copper in drinking water.

Well owners should test their water periodically to assure the water quality is acceptable. Groundwater contamination can be linked to land use. What goes on the ground can seep through the soil and turn up in drinking water, lakes, rivers, streams and wetlands. Tracking down and stopping sources of pollution is a lengthy and expensive process.


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  • It's usually impossible to completely remove all traces of a pollutant. Conducting a partial cleanup of an aquifer to a usable condition can cost a substantial amount of money. Who pays the enormous cost of groundwater cleanup? The owner or facility operator causing the pollution should shoulder the cost. But what happens when the owner is bankrupt, out of business or dead? Taxpayers must step in. Federal and state money is used for cleaning up sites and enforcing laws governing waste disposal and hazardous material spills. When it comes to groundwater, prevention is the best strategy.

    This means looking at the many ways we pollute groundwater and finding methods to keep those pollutants at bay. Landfills and wastewater lagoons need to be sited, designed and operated to prevent infiltration to groundwater. Pesticides must be applied according to need and label instructions, and fertilizers and manure should be applied in carefully calibrated amounts to enhance crops without damaging the environment.

    With vigilance and care, we can protect our buried treasure.