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Groundwater – A Quick Overview

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Groundwater – it’s where we get most of our drinking water, which makes it a precious resource. Governments acknowledge this and have created strict policies to protect groundwater quality. As a property owner, you are responsible for ensuring activities on your property do not contaminate the water supply.

Groundwater Contamination

The main pathway for groundwater contamination is from a liquid compound released on the ground surface (or slightly below the ground) and percolating down into the water table. Common contaminants include petroleum and volatile organic compounds (VOCs). A few businesses where these issues could be present are gas stations, automotive repair shops, dry cleaners, and chemical production facilities.

Risks from Groundwater Contamination

Of course, there is the immediate risk of contaminating the drinking water supply. Most contaminants break down, but it could create a problem if the release site is close to a drinking water well. The second risk is vapor intrusion. Typically, contaminants in groundwater will also turn into their vapor phase and, depending on density, may travel back up through the soil into the structures above. This can create a health risk for people in the building. This falls under indoor air quality, which state and federal governments regulate. If the contaminant plume in the groundwater spreads over a large area, it could create regional off-gassing issues. In extreme cases, this can cost millions of dollars to monitor and remediate.

Assessment and Remediation

Assessing groundwater is done in two forms: temporary and permanent wells. In both cases, a drill rig is used to auger just below the water level. If just a single sample (temporary location) is needed, a water sample is collected, and the hole is backfilled. For a permanent groundwater sampling point, a monitoring well is installed. Monitoring wells are typically constructed with PVC pipe that has a perforated section below the water level. Monitoring wells are useful for regularly collecting samples to establish trends and assess remediation progress.

Remediation can take several forms depending on the type of contamination. This ranges from injecting compounds into groundwater to speed up the natural breakdown process to pumping out groundwater, treating it and then releasing it back into the water table.

What This Means for You

As a Gary Indiana property owner, groundwater contamination is a concerning issue. It is strictly regulated, challenging to assess, and expensive to remediate. It is also hard to know if there is a groundwater issue – you can’t see it, and it could be coming from an adjacent property. Assessing these concerns is what we do at Aegis. From Phase I ESAs to Phase II assessments and remediation, we have experienced in-house professionals ready to assist you with any environmental needs.

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