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Issue 23
March , 2010
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How Ground Water Contamination Spreads

Source: ENN, Date: February , 2010

Why are some wells contaminated and some are not?


All wells are not equally vulnerable to contamination because of differences in three factors: the general aquifer chemistry, groundwater age, and paths within aquifer systems that allow water and contaminants to reach a well. More than 100 million people in the United States receive their drinking water from public groundwater systems, which can be vulnerable to naturally occurring contaminants such as radon, uranium, arsenic, and man made compounds, including fertilizers, septic tank leachate, solvents and gasoline hydrocarbons.

An aquifer is an underground bed or layer of permeable rock, sediment, or soil that yields water. Some aquifers are potable (drinkable) and some are not based on their chemistry (What is dissolved in the water).


Ground water age is a factor of how fast does the water recharge in the aquifer. The recharge rate will affect the aquifer water chemistry.


The path that the ground water takes underground may bypass sources of contamination or it may go through them.

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