Groundwater remediation is a type of environmental cleanup which focuses on addressing pollution of groundwater supplies. The goal of a groundwater remediation plan is to turn polluted water into clean water, or to sequester polluted water so that people will not be exposed to danger and to prevent the spread of the pollutant. Classically, this activity is performed by government agencies, although private companies also offer remediation services for people and organizations concerned about contaminated groundwater.
The first step in groundwater remediation involves identification of the contaminants which are making groundwater unclean. Identification is important because the remediation plan will vary, depending on the type of pollution involved. It also allows the people performing the administration to identify the source of the pollution, as addressing the source is a critical part of a remediation plan.
Once the source is identified, a remediation plan can be developed. The remediation plan usually involves removal or containment of the source so that contamination cannot continue, along with cleanup of the groundwater itself to remove the pollutant. A number of approaches can be used including introducing microorganisms which will eat the contaminant, aggressive filtering, or chemical treatment to neutralize the contaminant. If the groundwater or source cannot be cleaned up, it will be necessary to contain the pollution to prevent spread.
Groundwater remediation is important for a number of reasons. Because potable water is a limited resource, cleanup of groundwater can free up supplies for irrigation or drinking, reducing strain on water supplies. Environmental cleanup also benefits the natural environment, by ensuring that plants and animals are not injured as a result of exposure to contaminants. Water which has been polluted with pharmaceuticals, for example, could cause developmental abnormalities in fish which could lead to a decline in fish populations, thereby upsetting natural ecosystems.
Paying for groundwater remediation can get very costly, because water is notoriously difficult to treat. Tracing the source of the contamination can reveal a responsible party, such as a company which has been releasing contaminants into waterways, and this company may be obligated to pay for the cleanup. If the responsible party has gone out of business or cannot be identified, the government may be required to step in and pay for the remediation process. A number of governments around the world now require companies to carry environmental insurance, so that in the event that the companies are liable for an environmental remediation, the government will not have to pay for it.