What is Soil Contamination?

Soil contamination has become a major problem because of the large amounts of man made pollutants and chemicals that have been put into the environment. The ways that soil contamination occurs varies. However regardless of how the soil contamination happens pollution of the environment is a serious problem not only for the environment but also for people because the presence of soil contamination endangers’ individual health. Individual health can be damaged because of touching the soil, because of breathing the air in the area where the soil is, or because of the ground water being contaminated as a direct result of the soil contamination.

Companies dumping pollutants is not the only way that soil contamination occurs. There are also cases where things happen such as underground tanks rupturing. At any rate the contamination might involve pesticides, hydrocarbons, metals, industrial solvents, oil dumping, or wastes from landfills. This is not an exhaustive list but it is an example of the pollutants that contaminate the environment.

The following are specific examples of the potential harm that soil contamination can cause. For example chlorine solvents can cause kidney damage, liver damage, and central nervous system damage. Some pesticides are known to cause cancer. Benzene in sufficient amounts is reportedly associated with the occurence of leukemia. Lead is reportedly dangerous for children and can cause damage to the brain and kidneys. In fact some chemicals that cause soil contamination can even cause a person to die.

Before the 1970’s there was comparatively less awareness of the potential problems that soil contamination could cause. However since that time in the United States there have been efforts to clean up the soil. In fact Superfund implemented rules which indicated that there would be legal liability for soil contamination. Thousands of sites were identified as needing to be cleaned up. And reportedly at this time it is estimated that there are still many thousands of sites where soil clean up is needed.

But despite the fact that there are many sites that need cleaning companies do not always cooperate with these clean up efforts. When companies dump pollutants and when this sort of thing results in soil contamination often the companies involved are aware that they are causing environmental problems. But they go ahead and dump pollutants into the environment anyway because it is easier to do that and retain more profit than it is to take extra steps to help prevent soil contamination.

Sadly when soil contamination happens in some cases people may start to suffer consequences before they even realize what is happening. For example if the groundwater is contaminated that can impact food and drinking water and so people could be potentially ingesting toxins for years and they might not know it. Some individuals do realize that their illness symptoms are associated with soil contamination and they seek help. However some individuals suffer quietly for years before seeking legal help and medical help for their symptoms.

How does Groundwater Contamination Happen?

Groundwater contamination can have a variety of deleterious effects on a person’s health, such as contracting diseases such as dysentery or hepatitis, poisoning from various toxins that may have leached into water supplies, and increased even cancer risks from certain synthetic compounds. In fact, even using contaminated groundwater to irrigate crops can result in poisoned food, as demonstrated in India, where people became sick after eating food grown in water exposed to heavy metals from a nearby distillery. Given that groundwater is the main source of potable water for many people, it is crucial to understand the various ways in which groundwater contamination may occur.

There are many potential sources of groundwater contamination, in both urban and areas. Storage tanks for oil, gasoline, and other liquid chemicals are one common source of contamination; in the United States alone there is estimated to be 10 million storage tanks buried underground, some of which are quite old. As these tanks age, they corrode, and the chemicals inside can leak out and contaminate the water table nearby. Septic tanks and systems in both urban and rural areas, if improperly built or maintained, can infect groundwater with dangerous bacteria, parasites, and viruses. Septic systems are used to carry waste away from buildings and into storage areas, and some estimates state that up to 1% of all groundwater in the United States have been contaminated by faulty septic systems.

Hazardous waste sites are normally located somewhat farther from human habitations, but they are normally used to store highly dangerous or even radioactive materials, so their effects on groundwater can be far-reaching. Although most sites are well-regulated, an estimated 20,000 hazardous waste sites in the United States are abandoned or undercontrolled, meaning that, over time, the storage tanks holding these highly toxic compounds could corrode and seep into water without anyone becoming aware of it until the negative effects on people are seen.

Dumps and landfills, while necessary to control solid waste in all areas, are an inevitable source of groundwater contamination. Most landfills have a protective bottom layer to prevent waste from spilling out into groundwater, but older landfills may not even have a layer, and a cracked layer can allow corrosive or hazardous compounds such as battery acid, paint, or cleaning products to leak into groundwater, and some government estimates state that 0.1-0.4% of total usable water in the United States are already contaminated by faulty or nonexistent landfill linings.

Runoff from chemicals such as pesticides used on private and public lands, and road salts applied to icy roads can be another way groundwater contamination happens. At least 32 states were found to have toxic levels of pesticides in their groundwater according to United States Government surveys. Road salts are generally poisonous, and during periods of heavy icing can be raised from normal levels of 2-3 mg/L to over 100 mg/L in urban areas, drastically increasing the risk of contamination.

Approximately 5-10 million people around the world become sick from conditions related to contaminated water, and the facts show that Americans are not immune to the problem of chemicals and pathogens in our groundwater.

What Is Atrazine?

Before understanding the legal ramifications of Atrazine and how injured victims can seek justice, it is important to answer the question, What is Atrazine?

Atrazine is an herbicide that is widely used around the world to control broadleaf and grassy weeds. Typically you will see this type of weed killer applied to crops that consist of corn and soybean. In addition, it is sometimes used on pineapple, sugarcane, and sorghum, as well as tree farms. It is a weed killer that is used in around 80 different countries, and is considered the most used of all herbicides. It can be found under many different brands such as AAtrex and Atratol.

Atrazine is the pesticide most used in the U.S., and is primarily found throughout the Midwest. Atrazine was used to treat as much as 64,000,000 acres of farm land in 1990 alone. According to the EPA, and the regulation of Atrazine concluded in 1992, the maximum level of Atrazine allowed in the water system is 3 ppb (parts per billion).

Due to its high use and potential for runoff into the groundwater, testing must be routinely done on the local groundwater to make sure that it is not contaminated. Despite these tight restrictions, groundwater has been contaminated by Atrazine in many areas. There are dire health concerns that are connected to the contamination of Atrazine and groundwater as it is the number two pesticide that is detected during the EPA’s drinking water survey.

In many states the use of Atrazine has been banned due to the fact that the local well water is already above the 3 ppb as specified in the law. These states include Wisconsin, New York, Nebraska, Missouri, Minnesota, Michigan, Kansas, Iowa, Indiana, Illinois, and Delaware. This has had great health ramifications in these areas as Atrazine has been connected as a possible cause for menstrual problems, low birth weights in babies, and even human birth defects. This is above and beyond the local damage that is done to other animals that are not specifically targeted by the pesticide.

To be safe and reduce your risk to the potential problems associated with Atrazine contamination and poisoning, it is suggested to drink bottled water and have your home water tested on a regular basis for water contaminants. It is especially important to complete routine water tests if you use well water and live near highly agricultural areas.

If you live in one of these areas and have suffered from any of these ailments, then there is a chance that you could be the victim of Atrazine contamination. Due to the possible health side effects and groundwater contamination, Atrazine has been banned from the European Union and many have called for the same to be done in the US. Recent 2009 studies have shown that even the current concentration levels of this pesticide that are allowed under US law may be dangerous to the general public.

It is important to seek legal counsel if you have been affected by the health problems that have been connected to Atrazine poisoning of well and groundwater.

What is MTBE?

MTBE stands for methyl tert butyl ether. It is a chemical that is used as a catalyst to release oxygen molecules in gasoline and increase the octane number. When it was discovered that MTBE in gasoline spills could contaminate large areas containing ground water, it was discontinued as an additive to gasoline. However, the environmental damage has already been done.

Online sources estimate that, at least, 200,000 barrels of MTBE were produced in 1999. Storage tanks throughout the United States of MTBE containing gasoline tanks were leaking MTBE from underground gasoline tanks. MTBE was banned as an additive to gasoline; however, MTBE has already contaminated drinking water in many states. Two areas cited are Lake Tahoe and Santa Monica.

Production of MTBE has also declined in Europe, but it is said that MTBE will still be produced and added to gasoline in parts of the world who are not aware of its drinking water contamination properties. The problem is that MTBE is not considered a cancer causing agent although its presence in drinking water can be smelled and tasted. It’s use as a gasoline additive was simply that it allows gasoline to be consumed cleaner and with less knocking that without MTBE and it also lowers carbon monoxide emissions from cars and trucks that burn gasoline.

In 1990, The Clean Air Act was passed to allow for oxygenators like MTBE to be mixed with gasoline because it lowers carbon monoxide emissions. What happened beginning in 1999 was the problem caused by discovering MTBE in drinking water. The Environmental Protective Agency in September of 1999 reported in its Blue Ribbon Panel on Oxygenates in Gasoline the detection of anywhere from 5% to 10% contamination of local drinking water supplies.

In March of 2000, they found that 9000 communities in the United States had drinking water that was contaminated by MTBE. The EPA administrator, Carol Browner, in March of 2000 promised to ban MTBE as a fuel additive. But, the EPA has yet to report on the level of MTBE contamination of drinking water. The problem is that the science done on testing MTBE shows that as a possible carcinogen, large quantities of MTBE must be present in the drinking water that a person consumes.

Aside from the leakage of MTBE into drinking water from leaky underground gas pipes, breathing or touching the additive from gas spills at gas stations or other places where gasoline is used can also be harmful to the individual thus exposed.

MTBE has been scientifically studied since 1979 as a possible carcinogen. Tests on laboratory animals proved that MTBE at high levels of contamination caused lymphomas and leukemias. Breathing MTBE on a constant level caused cancers of the kidneys, liver, testicles and the females uterus. Although subsequent studies showed the increase in kidney cancers and testicle cancers in laboratory rats exposed to high concentrations of MTBE, The International Agency for Cancer Research did not list the additive as a carcinogen. The EPA has followed suit with the IACR, but some communities especially in California are suing to have the gas companies pay to have MTBE removed from their drinking water.

What is Perchlorate and why is it a problem?

Perchlorate is a chemical compound made from chlorine and oxygen and can be found in nature and is also man made. It is a by product of many manufacturing processes as well as a direct byproduct of munitions testing and rocket fuel. Fireworks, air bag inflation systems and nuclear power plants all use Perchlorate. It is a strong chemical compound and will remain in the environment long after exposure. Perchlorate has been associated with thyroid function problems and has been determined by the CDC as a threat to women of childbearing years and small children.

The Center for Disease Control has issued a statement in the beginning of 2009 stating that Perchlorate has been found in the drinking water supplies in 35 states and has been found to be in the food supply. Farmers who irrigate their crops with this groundwater are finding high levels of the chemical in the crops they produce. This is especially true in produce that contains a high level of water in its makeup such as lettuce. Studies in California have found high contamination levels in the milk that is being produced in the area. Further testing is being conducted around the country to determine the extent of the contamination. As of December 2009, the Colorado River has the largest amount of contamination from Perchlorate. This is a very serious problem since the Colorado River is the main source of drinking and irrigation water in the western states. Contamination is not limited to this area and has been found in places such as Massachusetts and Texas.

The EPA and the CDC has determined that this chemical is very dangerous to women of childbearing years because it is an iodine suppressant. Iodine is a necessary component to thyroid function. Without iodine your thyroid will not work which is especially dangerous in pregnant women. Thyroid function and iodine levels are critical in pregnant women to help correct fetal development. This is one reason that pregnant women take prenatal vitamins throughout pregnancy to ensure that they have enough iodine in their system. Lack of iodine during fetal development can lead to severe and irreversible birth defects.

Perchlorate poisoning has the same symptoms as hypothyroidism and can be a direct cause of that problem. Lower IQ, developmental problems both physically and mentally and growth problems have all been associated with overexposure to this chemical. Speech, hearing and some vision problems have also been related to thyroid suppression and energy/metabolism problems may also be at risk. The state of Massachusetts has determined that exposure to this chemical is such a large risk after finding it in their groundwater that they have enacted stricter regulations than even the EPA has on record. This state has determined that even bathing in this contaminated water may pose a risk, especially in small children, since there is a possibility of swallowing the contaminated water. There is also risk associated with inhaling dust that contains high amounts of this chemical compound. Dust contamination occurs at work places that put off a lot of this compound as a byproduct of their manufacturing process. Rubber production, enamel paint and even leather tanning companies all have high exposure to this compound.

If you feel that you have suffered from Perchlorate poisoning contact our Law Firm for a free perchlorate case evaluation.

Health Effects of Groundwater Contamination

Please read our detailed review of all the possible health effects associated with groundwater contamination.

What To Do If You’ve Been Affected…

In some cases it may be difficult to know if you’re suffering from soil contamination, but if you suspect that you or a family member has developed a health problem as a result of soil contamination or if you or a family member has had any other kind of problem associated with soil contamination, please contact our law firm for a free soil contamination case evaluation.