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What is Groundwater Remediation?


Groundwater Remediation Can Improve Quality

Groundwater remediation is an extremely important process and industry, although an often forgotten one. Realistically no one questions whether surface water sources are contaminated, but groundwater sources are typically not suspected to have contamination. Most often this assumption is because we think that groundwater that has been filtered through the soil has become safe to drink, and we don't give it much more thought than that.

Until recently, this view may have been mostly true. But now groundwater investigators have found contaminants in groundwater supplies, such as industrial and municipal wastes; leaking sewer or septic tank effluent; animal feedlot runoff; and lawn and crop fertilizers, pesticides, and herbicides. Effects of microbial contaminants are generally immediate, leading to diarrhea, nausea, and vomiting. But the health effects of some chemical contaminants won't be apparent for a long time and could lead to cancer.

Remediation techniques can improve the quality of groundwater, and many approaches already exist or are being developed. For years, groundwater remediation usually meant the pump and treat method. This approach applies well-established wastewater treatment to groundwater remediation.

Using the pump and treat method, contaminated groundwater is pumped from the ground to a treatment plant on the surface. This method has the advantage of using proven techniques and is easy to control. The treated groundwater can be reinjected into the ground or discharged into rivers or lakes. The main disadvantages are that it disturbs the routine way that groundwater flows, and it requires steady energy and other inputs. In addition, it doesn't work so well with some slowly secreted contaminants, such as polyaromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs).

Innovative Methods Can Rehabilitate Wells

In recent years, treatment techniques have improved. According to the GWR Technologies Analysis Center, a nonprofit organization that evaluates novel technologies, there are a number of innovative ways to rehabilitate your well. Some alternate methods include: air sparging, blast-enhanced fracturing, directional wells, water recirculation, hydraulic and pneumatic fracturing techniques, permeable reactive barriers and thermal enhancements.

New biological treatment methods exist as well, including bioslurping, intrinsic bioremediation, monitored natural attenuation and phytoremediation. These processes may or may not involve periodically harvesting plants. These processes may be applied to a wide range of organic and inorganic contaminants, but they are most appropriate for sites where large volumes of water have been contaminated by relatively low concentrations of pollutants but must be remediated to strict standards. They are most effective where groundwater is within ten feet of the ground surface and soil contamination is within three feet of the ground surface.


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