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17

The Plain Talk Series - #57

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The Plain Talk Series - #57

Today’s question: Do oil spills pollute drinking water sources?

"Plain Talk" answer: Oil spilled in the oceans is harmful to the environment, but it is not a danger to drinking water sources, unless you live on the coast and your water utility is one of the few that has begun desalinating seawater. Oil spills from ship and barge accidents on lakes and rivers do contaminate surface water sources, however. Many highways and railroad tracks pass over or near drinking water sources, creating the potential for major contamination if a tanker truck or freight train accident occurs. A motor vehicle accident or improper disposal of oil from your car also can cause oil pollution. Drinking water contaminated with even a little bit of oil has such a bad taste that most people regard it as undrinkable.

Groundwater sources usually are not directly affected by oil spills, unless they occur in the recharge area, where water seeps downward to add water to the underground aquifer. Major oil spills in these areas can cause nearly irreversible damage to groundwater.

For more information on this and many other water-related topics, check out "Plain Talk About Drinking Water" by Dr. James M. Symons.

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