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Contamination Basics: Contaminants

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Michigan Environmental Education Curriculum
Groundwater Contamination

So, what do you think we want to protect our groundwater from?

There are thousands of different contaminants which we don't want in our water. A contaminant could be either biological (a disease-causing organism or pathogen) or chemical (like arsenic) which can cause harm to us or the environment if there is too much of it in the groundwater. We'll get to what "too much" might mean later.

Contaminants are separated into three main categories:

  • Biological
  • Inorganic chemicals
  • Organic chemicals

Don't worry about what inorganic and organic mean. For now just think of them as different categories that scientists use. Scientists and engineers that deal with groundwater contaminants categorize them to make it easier to remember certain information about each specific chemical.

Shown on the next page are some examples of different contaminants and their affects on human health.

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