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Some Specific Contaminants

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Michigan Environmental Education Curriculum
Groundwater Contamination

Pesticides

Pesticides are used to kill pests such as insects on farm fields. Pesticides can seep into the groundwater and cause kidney and liver damage and cancer in humans who drink the water. Over 2.5 BILLION pounds of pesticides are used in the United States.

Plane spraying pesticides on a field.

Fecal Coliform

Yep, that’s right. Human waste contains bacteria that can contaminate groundwater. Fecal coliforms can cause stomach illnesses and diarrhea and if they are present, other pathogens may be there also.

Picture of a toilet used to represent fecal coliform.

Uranium

Uranium is a radioactive element used in nuclear power plants. It also exists naturally in small concentrations in the ground. Too much uranium can cause cancer and other illnesses.

Canisters representing uranium

Chemical Solvents

TCE is an example of a chemical solvent. TCE is used in industries to clean parts and materials. Too much of it in the groundwater can cause cancer in humans.

 

Nitrates

Nitrates are chemicals present in most fertilizers. Nitrates can contaminate the groundwater, causing serious illness in young children. Over 115 million tons of fertilizer are used in the United States.

Bag of fertilizer.

Benzene

Benzene contamination can come from leaking fuel tanks and industrial waste. Too much of it can cause cancer, nerve, lung and kidney damage, and blood disorders.

Oil canisters leaking.
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