Arsenic is a natural element found in soil and bedrock throughout Wisconsin. Under certain conditions, arsenic can be released into groundwater and enter water wells.
Aluminum is a naturally occurring metal that is found in the earth’s crust. Aluminum salts are used as coagulants to purify municipal water that is drawn from lakes or reservoirs. Aluminum-contaminated water has no taste or odor. However, very high aluminum levels can sometimes cause water to have a bluish color.
Aromatic concentrates are purified mixtures of chemicals found in crude oil. These mixtures are used to make gasoline and other fuels. They are strong-smelling liquids that range in color from yellow to black. If spilled, aromatic concentrates evaporate quickly. However, part of the spill can go into the air, the soil, and sink down into the groundwater.
Atrazine is a white crystal solid. Farmers have used it widely as a weed killer on corn fields since the early 1960s. A recent survey of rural Wisconsin wells found widespread atrazine contamination. In most cases, the amounts detected did not pose a serious risk to health. However, the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade, and Consumer Protection has taken action to reduce atrazine use to prevent any more groundwater contamination.
A common contaminant in wells.
Benzene is a widely used industrial chemical. It quickly evaporates from water or soil. If benzene leaks from buried storage tanks or landfills, it can contaminate nearby drinking water wells. Benzene can move long distances in groundwater.
Cadmium is a metal found naturally in the earth's crust. The normal intake of cadmium (1-3 micrograms/day) does not appear to cause health problems. People can be exposed to increased amounts of cadmium by drinking contaminated water, which is typically caused by improper disposal of industrial chemicals.
Carbon tetrachloride (Carbon tet) is a non-flammable, colorless liquid with a heavy, sweet odor. Carbon tet may contaminate groundwater near locations where the chemical was improperly disposed of. Since the compound is heavy, some of the spilled liquid will sink through soil and enter groundwater.
Chlorine is a poisonous, greenish-yellow gas described as having a choking odor. It is a very corrosive, hazardous chemical. Usually combined with other chemicals, it is used to disinfect water, purify metals, bleach wood pulp, and make other chemicals. Low-level exposure can occur when water containing chlorine is used for drinking or for food preparation.
Cyanide is sometimes found in contaminated drinking water. People can be exposed when they drink contaminated water. Cyanide is very poisonous. Cyanide can exist as a gas, liquid, or white crystal powder. Cyanide is used in the electroplating industry, in metal cleaning operations, and as an industrial bug killer.
1, 2 - DCA
1,2-DCA is a thick, colorless liquid which has a pleasant odor and sweet taste. In the home, 1,2-DCA can be found in some cleaning solvents, pesticides, glues, varnishes, and strippers. When 1,2-DCA enters the environment, it can seep into the soil or evaporate into the air. It eventually may reach groundwater and contaminate local drinking water supplies.
Lead was used in many home plumbing systems and could be a toxic contaminant in the home.
Lead Arsenate Pesticides
Lead Arsenate Pesticides were used commonly to control agricultural pests in Wisconsin. The pesticide residues bind tightly to the soil, and some has remained there for decades, and may pose a health risk to humans when the land changes from agriculture uses.
Common element in minerals, rocks, and soil that is naturally found in groundwater but can be harmful at high levels.
Manure-related problems are usually caused when liquid manure is spread on fields during the late winter and early spring months. During these times, manure cannot be tilled in or adequately absorbed by the soil.
Molybdenum is a metal that occurs naturally in the earth’s crust and is usually found in very small amounts. It is an important dietary nutrient in very small quantities, yet too much molybdenum may cause health problems. In nature, it can be found in poorly drained, highly organic soils and as part of some minerals found in soil and rock. Molybdenum is occasionally found naturally in groundwater.
A common contaminant in drinking water. It is largely used in agricultural and residential fertilizers.
Old Dumps and Landfills
Many old dumpsites had no liners to prevent groundwater contamination. When the dumps were full, they were typically covered with loose topsoil. Rainwater and precipitation can seep into the waste and carry chemicals to the groundwater below. Because some old dumps used wetlands for disposal sites, the wastes were directly in contact with the groundwater table.
Polychlorinated Biphenyls (PCBs)
PCBs are a group of 209 different compounds. PCBs are human-made and have no smell. They are yellow, oily liquids that don’t easily burn. There are no natural sources of PCBs. For most people, eating fish or other seafood caught from polluted water is the main way they are exposed to PCBs.
Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrcarbons (PAHs)
Most PAHs in the environment are from incomplete burning of carbon-containing materials like oil, wood, garbage, or coal. Charcoal-broiled foods, especially meats, are a source of some PAH exposure. Shellfish living in contaminated water may be another major source of exposure. PAHs may be in groundwater near disposal sites where construction wastes or ash are buried; people may be exposed by drinking this water.
A naturally occurring element that is found in some of Wisconsin's groundwater in low amounts.
A naturally occurring element commonly found at low levels in drinking water supplies.
A mineral that occurs naturally in the environment. Non-radioactive or "stable strontium" is very common in soil and bedrock and may dissolve, entering groundwater.
Sulfates are mineral salts containing sulfur. Sulfate salts are found in some Wisconsin soils. Mines, tanneries, steel mills, pulp mills, and textile plants also release sulfates into the environment. Industrial wastewater, household wastewater, runoff from a hazardous waste site, or naturally decaying material can put sulfates into waterways, rivers, lakes, and streams. Wastes that contain sulfates seep through soil and contaminate groundwater.
Trichloroethylene (TCE) is a human-made chemical that does not occur naturally in the environment. TCE can enter groundwater and surface water from industrial discharges or from improper disposal of industrial wastes at landfills. TCE has been found in many drinking water supplies in the United States, including Wisconsin.
Volatile Organic Chemicals (VOCs)
VOCs can enter wells from leaking underground storage tanks, landfills, and other sources, including rainwater and melting snow.