How Our Water Supplies Are Being Contaminated

As industrial and corporate growth mushroomed throughout the twentieth century, history recorded the financial successes and excesses of corporations across America, all in the name of progress.

What has not been chronicled until much more recently, however, is the enormous environmental damage left in the wake of America’s burgeoning growth.

Recent studies show that contaminated drinking water supplies exist nationwide, which can be detrimental to a community’s infrastructure and to the health of its citizens. There are 54,000 community water systems in the United States. They provide tap water to about 90% of Americans.

Our most valuable natural resource has become threatened by contaminants such as rocket fuels, gasoline additives, herbicides and solvents, just to name a few.

Some contaminants are directly deposited into our surface water supplies. Other contaminants are carried into rivers, streams and lakes with rainwater. And still other contaminants, due to their composition, spread through soil, coming into contact with groundwater supplies.

Groundwater is water that lies below the soil surface and fills the pore spaces in and around rock, sand, gravel, and other organic materials. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) estimates that approximately 81% of community water systems in the United States are dependent on groundwater.

Contamination of groundwater occurs when undesirable, often man-made substances such as gasoline and chemicals move through fractures of the soil profile to the saturated zone.

It is estimated that over 10 million storage tanks buried in the United States still contain, or at one time contained, gasoline, oil, chemicals and other types of toxic substances. Over time, these tanks can erode and develop leaks. There are also thought to be over 20,000 known abandoned and uncontrolled hazardous waste sites, and the numbers grow every year.

Hazardous waste sites can lead to water contamination if barrels or other containers that house hazardous materials develop a leak. If a leak occurs, these contaminants can eventually filter through the soil and into groundwater.

Some of the contaminants found in water supplies can include MTBE, atrazine, 1-2-3 trichloropropane and several other toxins.