Articles Tagged with groundwater contamination

water-1154080_1920-1024x680In the United States, more than 13 million households rely on private wells to get their drinking water. But unlike municipal sources of drinking water, like a town or city, private wells are not regulated by the government. Instead, private well owners are responsible for the safety of their own drinking water.

To make sure that private well water is free from contaminants, wells should be tested at least once a year. Yet, routine water tests for private wells are uncommon in Illinois and in other places across the country. Without these tests, however, families have no way of knowing whether their private well water is safe to drink.

Testing your well water is important because it’s the only way to determine whether it contains chemicals or other contaminants that may be harmful to your health. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency warns that the following contaminants are commonly found in private well water:

coal-ash-photo-300x188Among news of federal regulations being scaled back and reports of the drastic climate change situation, it’s nice to hear about a state taking action to protect the environment. This summer, Illinois did just that. Governor Pritzker signed the Coal Ash Pollution Prevention Act, which protects Illinois residents and the environment from the dangerous effects of toxic coal ash.

So, what’s coal ash and why is it dangerous? Coal ash, also called “coal combustion residuals,” is the group of byproducts produced from burning coal. The byproducts include waste from each process in the coal plant, like “bottom ash” sitting at the bottom of the coal furnace and “fly ash” that’s captured going out the smokestacks. Coal ash is one of the largest types of industrial wastes in the United States. Nearly 130 million tons of coal ash was generated in 2014. About one-third of coal ash is recycled, but the majority is either dumped into landfills at the power plants or mixed with water and put in “ponds” behind earthen walls.

Coal ash can be incredibly dangerous to humans and the environment. Depending on where the coal was mined, coal ash can contain heavy metals, such as arsenic and lead. If you eat, drink, or inhale them, heavy metals can cause cancer and nervous system malfunctions, such as developmental delays. They have also been linked to kidney disease, reproductive problems, heart damage, lung disease, birth defects, and impaired bone growth. When coal ash is improperly disposed of, in coal ash ponds that lack protective liners, for example, it can leach into the water, carrying toxic substances into drinking water supplies. Over 100 communities nationwide have been impacted by coal ash leaching. Some impacted communities in Illinois include Waukegan and Peoria.

According to a new report, the state of Illinois has the most leaking coal ash dumps in the United States.

utility-power-plantCoal ash is the waste that is left over after coal is burned. Most coal ash is created by coal-fired power plants that combust coal to produce electricity. According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), living next to a coal ash disposal site can increase your risk of cancer. It can also increase your risk of developing other health problems such as heart disease, reproductive issues and neurological damage in kids. This is because coal ash often contains numerous heavy metals and carcinogens, including arsenic, lead, and mercury.

Coal ash is one of the biggest types of industrial waste produced in the United States. The EPA notes that in 2012 alone, 470 coal-fired electric utilities generated around 110 million tons of coal ash. For decades, the utility industry disposed of this waste by irresponsibly dumping it unlined ponds and landfills where coal ash chemicals are free to seep into groundwater.

Ford Plant Livonia.jpgLIVONIA, Mich. August 8, 2017 – More than 130 homeowners in the Alden Village neighborhood of Livonia, Michigan will be filing a lawsuit against Ford Motor Company, alleging that dangerous chemicals from Ford’s nearby Transmission Plant have migrated into the neighborhood, contaminating groundwater and soil, and threatening the intrusion of chemical vapors into their homes. Attorneys for the homeowners will file the suit in Wayne County Circuit Court tomorrow, August 9.

THE PRESS CONFERENCE WILL BE HELD

TOMORROW, WEDNESDAY, AUGUST 9, AT 1:00 PM EST,

What are PFASs?

Perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances (together known as PFASs) are a class of man-made chemicals, not found naturally in the environment. PFOA (sometimes known as “C8”) and PFOS are the two PFASs that have been the most extensively produced and therefore are the most studied of these chemicals. Both of these chemicals are very persistent in the environment and in the human body.

What are PFASs Used For?

Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for water-2296444_1920.jpgTens of thousands of Americans will learn this year that the water just underneath their home-their groundwater-is contaminated with chemicals that some nearby factory dumped probably decades ago, and left to bleed down through the soil, infiltrate the groundwater, and ultimately migrate into your neighborhood.

I’ve been representing families in exactly this predicament for nearly 18 years. This is what I’ve learned they should be doing/asking in response to this news:

(1) Talk to an experienced environmental lawyer about your legal rights and options. Contaminated groundwater, and what to do about it, involves some complicated legal, scientific and sometimes political issues. Also, while you are going to need access to accurate information, and quickly, in order to make good decisions to protect you family, those most likely to have the information-the polluter and sometimes government-may not want to give it to you. A lawyer can help you get it.

water-1154080_1920.jpgPFOA and PFOS belong to a family of “fluorinated organic chemicals”. They are dangerous to human health. Before virtually all production of these chemicals was halted in 2006 (due to health concerns), PFOA and PFOS were used in a number of industrial processes; to fight fires at airfields; and to make carpets, clothing and fabrics for furniture.

Health officials warn that sustained exposure to even low levels of these chemicals may result in adverse health effects, most notably, testicular and kidney cancer; damage to liver tissue; negative effects to the immune system and thyroid; and developmental damage to fetuses during pregnancy and to breastfed infants, such as low birth weight, accelerated puberty and skeletal variations.

The EPA tells us that while the levels of PFOA and PFOS in the blood of people that have been tested have been decreasing in the 10+ years since production of these chemicals stopped, PFOA and PFOS still pose a threat to human health in specific locations where the chemicals were historically used and dumped, buried or spilled, and allowed to migrate into water systems. Such locations include:

I want to take a moment to recognize McHenry County, IL, and its Public Health Administrator, Michael Hill, for disclosing on the County’s website what it calls “Groundwater Contamination Incidents”. http://ow.ly/Gb7v30cyNOF

countryside-2252029_1920.jpgMcHenry, while a fast developing county, is not far-removed from its roots as essentially a rural community, where most residents drew their water directly from the ground, and so contaminated groundwater was a very big deal, indeed. It still is.

As you can see, McHenry and Hill have itemized 11 such “Incidents”, and interested citizens can click onto any one of them, and see a host of relevant documents, including environmental test results, newspaper articles, government correspondence, etc., as to each one of them. (I’m trusting that the County has identified all of the “Incidents” that it should, and that it adds new documents to each “Incident” page as they become available.)

compactor-681543_1280.jpgIf you live near a landfill, you need to be especially aware of the ways in which toxic chemicals from the landfill can threaten your family. For example:

·Groundwater contamination: Over time, rainwater mixes with the chemicals from the garbage dumped in the landfill and produces a “leachate”, a sort of toxic sludge that burrows its way down through the landfill and ultimately into the groundwater. (That is, unless there is adequate lining at the landfill’s bottom, which, for older landfills, is seldom present.) The leachate-contaminated groundwater then migrates in whatever direction nature takes it, possibly into a nearby neighborhood’s water supply.

·Methane Gas: The process of compacting landfill waste produces methane-a gas 21 times more potent than carbon dioxide. Methane is most dangerous if it blows out the side of a landfill-under the ground surface-and migrates into a nearby neighborhood, where it can collect in the confined spaces of homes, and create an explosion risk.

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