Whats in Your Groundwater?
Water is the single most important resource to sustain life and our community infrastructures. When potable water is contaminated, it is an issue that requires immediate attention. But how can we tell if our water is contaminated? In order to ensure that the water in and around your home is safe, it is best to start with finding out where your water source originates.
To find out more about where your water comes from, you can search your zip code at the Natural Resources Defense Council website.
Well vs. City Water
Chances are if you live in a city or suburb, the water that comes into your home is city/municipal drinking water. Only 15% of American households have private wells. The EPA monitors public drinking water but does not monitor or regulate private wells. Even if you receive water from a municipal source, the groundwater underneath your home can still potentially affect your indoor air quality. Groundwater can be impacted by commercial or industrial activities in your neighborhood.
Commercial Hazardous Waste
The most common sources of groundwater pollution originate from businesses we encounter every day: dry cleaners and gas stations. Both types of businesses use heavy chemicals that if not handled appropriately, can quickly and easily make their way into groundwater. Benzene, an additive in gasoline, and Perchloroethylene (PCE), a chemical used in dry cleaning operations, are contaminants often found in the subsurface soil and groundwater below their respective operations. Since groundwater flows in a down-gradient direction, contamination may migrate to neighboring sites. The issue with contaminated groundwater, even if you do not have a private well, is that it increases the risk for vapor intrusion in above-lying structures.
More Information on Vapor Intrusion
To find out if there are commercial businesses handling hazardous waste in your neighborhood, you can search your zip code at http://www.epa.gov/epahome/commsearch.htm
To read more about Soil Vapor Intrusion, visit: www.andersenenviro.com/vapor_intrusion_studies.htm
Another harmful gas that can seep into homes by means of groundwater is radon. During the decomposition of uranium deep within the Earth, the colorless, odorless gas commonly known as radon is created. A silent yet serious public health threat, radon is the number two cause of lung cancer in the United States. Since radon is created in the Earth’s surface, it can occasionally make its way into groundwater. Small deposits of radon can become trapped in a well and released into the air once the water arrives at surface (this is similar to opening a carbonated bottle of soda). Most of the radon found in a well will be released into the air once it gets to the tap, although a small amount can remain dissolved in the water itself.
More Info on Radon in Groundwater
For more information about radon found in groundwater, visit: http://water.epa.gov/lawsregs/rulesregs/sdwa/radon/index.cfm
For more information about radon risk, visit: http://www.andersenenviro.com/radon.htm
Awareness of the water quality in your neighborhood and home is an often overlooked precaution for our health and safety. Even if you are not on a private well, the groundwater underneath your home can still be a pathway for vapor intrusion potential if your residence is close to commercial operations such as dry cleaners or gas stations. Private wells in high-risk radon areas may have the potential for introducing radon contamination in your home through tap water. Nonetheless, the EPA tests, monitors and regulates city and municipal water sources, roughly 85% of American homes. There are several resources available to help research and identify areas of concern so you can rest assured that the water and air in and around your home is safe.
If your water source is a private well and notice that your water is showing signs of abnormality, you can search through signs of water contamination symptoms here: http://water.epa.gov/drink/info/well/faq.cfm
Dennis Ironi has been working in the environmental industry for more than a decade and has been involved in more than four thousand indoor air quality projects for commercial, residential and industrial properties at Andersen Environmental. Mr. Ironi has also performed and reviewed a wide variety of Phase I and Phase II environmental site assessments across the country.
Guest Blogger These columns are the work of our guest bloggers who want to share their expert green opinions on a range of topics.