Groundwater: Contamination

Authored by: Charles W. Fetter

Encyclopedia of Environmental Management

Print publication date:  December  2012
Online publication date:  December  2012

Print ISBN: 9781439829271
eBook ISBN: 9781351235860
Adobe ISBN:


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Contamination can be defined as the presence of a biological or chemical agent in groundwater in such a concentration that it renders water unfit for a particular use. Agricultural uses of water include domestic drinking water, stock watering, and irrigation. Water that is contaminated for purposes of drinking might be perfectly suitable for use in irrigation. Contaminants can be from both anthropogenic and natural sources, for example, arsenic. Arsenic found in groundwater in northeastern Wisconsin comes from a naturally occurring mineral, arsenopyrite, present in aquifer. Arsenic has also become a contaminant in groundwater due to its use in agriculture as a pesticide as well as in industrial sites where arsenic was used as a wood preservative. The drinking water standard for arsenic in the United States for many years was 50 µg/L. As of January 2006, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency started enforcing the standard of 10 µg/L for total arsenic in public drinking water supplies.

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