Is it human nature to always look around us for someone else to blame? There's a lot of research that fully explores the blame game, but each of us has our own experiences. It happens in every situation, including issues surrounding groundwater. In the case of groundwater contamination, it is easy to point to one source and put all of the blame on it. But, that is too simple and, honestly, just not fair. Let’s explore this a little further through one of the hottest topics: the pipeline. (First, a side note: I find it ironic that it is referred to as “the pipeline” when there are around 22,000 miles of pipelines under our feet.)
Back to the topic at hand: the blame game. If you listen to soundbites and only read headlines you could easily believe that the fate of our aquifer depends on one pipeline. As I mentioned, that is simply not right, nor fair. This is one potential source of contamination that is easy to point to.
Now let’s look at two words from the sentence above: source and point. If you dive a little deeper into groundwater contamination, both of these words are super important, and there is a third one that is important too: non. Putting them together we have point source contamination and non-point source contamination. Point source contamination comes from a precise point, like a pipeline or factory. Non-point source contamination is trickier - you cannot simply point at. It generally results from runoff. As the runoff moves across the land's surface it picks up and carries with it natural and human-made pollutants, which ultimately end up in surface or groundwater.
Non-point source contamination could be considered the illusive culprit; the reality is, it plays a huge role in the fate of our aquifer. Instead of pointing our fingers at one potential threat, let's follow the backward trail of that illusive threat and trace where contaminants were picked up. The scary part of following that trail is that we might just end up pointing at ourselves if we realize the runoff picked up contaminants as it passed our home or business.
We all contribute to groundwater contamination. Let’s focus on what we can each do better personally, and then let’s bring that to our neighborhood, work place, children’s school, or relative’s farm, and let’s get ahead of that illusive culprit!