Understanding the impact of natural groundwater pollution can be quite a challenge. While many culprits come to mind, one gas stands out for its ubiquity and potential harm.
This gas is not only naturally occurring but has also become increasingly problematic due to human activities.
Discovering this may provoke a sense of bewilderment, given that this invisible entity can wreak such havoc beneath our feet.
In this article, we will explore how this gas infiltrates our precious groundwater reserves, the effects it has on our health and environment, and what measures can be taken to address this growing concern.
Does Natural Gas Pollute Water?
Natural gas itself doesn’t directly pollute water, but the extraction, production, and transportation processes associated with natural gas can lead to water pollution.
Hydraulic Fracturing (Fracking):
This process, used to extract natural gas from deep underground, involves injecting water, sand, and chemicals at high pressure into the ground to break apart rocks and release the gas.
If not managed properly, these chemicals can contaminate groundwater sources.
Moreover, the water that comes back to the surface (flow back water) is often laden with harmful substances including radioactive material, heavy metals, and other contaminants, which if not treated properly, can pollute water bodies.
Accidental Spills and Leaks:
During the production and transportation of natural gas, accidental spills and leaks can occur, releasing harmful substances into the environment.
These spills can contaminate both groundwater and surface water.
Improper disposal of waste materials from the natural gas extraction process can contaminate water sources.
When natural gas wells or infrastructure are decommissioned, if not properly managed, residual chemicals and materials can leak into the environment and contaminate water sources.
Which Gas is a Source of Natural Groundwater Pollution?
Radon gas is a source of natural groundwater pollution.
Radon is a colorless, tasteless, and odorless radioactive gas that is produced naturally through the decay of uranium in soil, rock, and water.
It’s found all over the world and can accumulate in enclosed places, like underground mines or residential homes.
When it comes to groundwater pollution, radon gas can dissolve and accumulate in groundwater, including well water.
When this water is used in homes, for instance when showering, cooking, or drinking, the radon gas can be released into the indoor air.
Furthermore, while the risk is smaller compared to inhalation, ingestion of radon-contaminated water can contribute to the risk of stomach and other internal organ cancers.
What are the Four Common Sources of Groundwater Pollution?
Groundwater can be polluted from a variety of sources. While many potential sources exist, here are four common ones:
#1 Agricultural Activities
These are one of the biggest contributors to groundwater pollution. Fertilizers, pesticides, and animal waste used in farming can leach into groundwater.
These substances can contribute nitrates, phosphates, bacteria, and other harmful substances to the water supply.
#2 Industrial Waste
Industries often produce a significant amount of waste that contains chemicals, heavy metals, and other harmful substances.
If this waste is not properly managed and disposed of, it can seep into the ground and contaminate groundwater sources.
#3 Leaking Septic Systems and Sewage Treatment Facilities
When septic systems and sewage treatment facilities malfunction or are not properly maintained, they can leak untreated sewage into the surrounding soil, which can then contaminate groundwater.
This can introduce pathogens and other harmful substances to the water supply.
#4 Landfills and Waste Disposal Sites
If not properly lined and managed, landfills can leak leachate – a liquid that forms when water mixes with waste materials – into the ground, contaminating the groundwater.
Leachate can contain a variety of harmful substances, depending on what waste is in the landfill.
These are just a few examples. Groundwater can also be polluted by things like improper disposal of household chemicals, runoff from urban areas, and accidental spills of hazardous materials.
The specific sources of pollution can vary greatly depending on the region and local activities.
What are the Two Main Sources of Groundwater Pollution?
Groundwater pollution can come from many sources, but the two main categories are usually referred to as Point Source and Nonpoint Source Pollution:
1. Point Source Pollution:
This type of pollution originates from a single, identifiable source or location.
Examples include industrial waste from a factory discharged directly into the ground or leakage from a septic tank or a landfill.
The polluting substance can often be traced back to its source, and the area of contamination is typically localized.
This type of pollution is diffuse, coming from multiple sources spread out over a large area.
It’s often caused by rainfall or snowmelt moving over and through the ground, picking up pollutants along the way and carrying them into groundwater.
Common nonpoint sources include agricultural runoff (containing pesticides and fertilizers), urban runoff (containing oil, and grease, and toxic chemicals).
The Bottom Line
Groundwater pollution is a significant environmental issue that affects the quality of drinking water supplies and can harm local ecosystems.
Common sources of groundwater pollution include agricultural activities, industrial waste, malfunctioning septic systems and sewage treatment facilities, landfills and waste disposal sites, and natural sources like radon gas.
Addressing groundwater pollution requires a multipronged approach that includes better waste management practices, and stricter regulation of industrial and agricultural activities.
In addition, educating the public about the sources and effects of groundwater pollution is crucial to encourage practices that protect groundwater resources.