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Sources of Potential Groundwater Contamination

In comparison with rivers or streams, ground water tends to move very slowly and with very little turbulence. Therefore, once a contaminant reaches the ground water, little dilution or dispersion normally occurs. Instead, the contaminant forms a concentrated plume that can flow along the same path as the ground water. Among the factors that determine the size, form, and rate of movement of the contaminant plume are the amount and type of contaminant and the speed of ground-water movement. Because ground water is hidden from view, contamination can go undetected for years until it is detected in a water supply well. The table below list examples of sources of potential ground-water contamination.

Ground Surface

  • Infiltration of polluted surface water
  • Land disposal of wastes
  • Stockpiles
  • Dumps
  • Sewage sludge disposal
  • Animal feedlots
  • Fertilizers & pesticides
  • Accidental spills
  • Waste water discharges
  • Chemical storage areas
  • Above ground storage tanks

Above Water Table

  • Septic tanks, cesspools & privies
  • Holding ponds & lagoons
  • Sanitary landfills
  • Land Application of Wastes
  • Underground storage tank leaks
  • Underground pipeline leaks
  • Artificial recharge
  • Sumps and dry wells
  • Graveyards

Below Water Table

  • Underground storage tank leaks
  • Improperly abandoned wells
  • Improperly constructed wells