Cleaning Up Contamination


Michigan Environmental Education Curriculum
Groundwater Contamination

So now we know that there can be contamination of the groundwater supply. What do we do about it?

Groundwater can sometimes be difficult to clean up due to its location. Many times the water is pumped up a well, cleaned, and then sent back down the well into the aquifer. Sometimes an additive is placed in the groundwater that either makes the contaminants less harmful or destroys them. When there is contamination, not only does the water need to be cleaned, but often the soil as well. If the soil wasn't cleaned, then the contaminants could just seep back into the water. Thus, cleaning is a very, very expensive and time consuming process. Sometimes it might be impossible or too expensive to clean up the contamination at all!

Specific Examples of Cleaning Methods: (There are many more.)

Soil Vapor Extraction system

Soil Vapor Extraction system. Looks as big and expensive as it really is.

Bioremediation involves using bacteria to clean up the contamination by "eating" it. Usually nutrients are pumped down into the contaminated area. The nutrients help bacteria, which are already in the groundwater, to grow and destroy the contamination.

Soil Vapor Extraction:
In SVE, air is pulled through the ground in order to pull certain contaminants out of the groundwater. This method also increases air movement underground so that the helpful bacteria in the ground can "breath" better and destroy more contaminants. The air that is pulled out of the ground then needs to be treated also.

"Pump and Treat" Systems:
Sometimes groundwater is cleaned by pumping it to the surface and cleaning it above ground. The clean water is then pumped back into the ground. This is sometimes is a problem, as there might not be anywhere to put it while it is being cleaned up. Another issue is that while the water is now clean, the contaminant still needs to be disposed of safely somewhere. This can take even more time and effort.

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