Monday, April 9, 2012

Cemeteries In The News as Potential Water Contaminators

By: Duane Craig

Something we don’t hear of much, but may begin to, is contamination from cemeteries. At least that is what's being floated as a cause for groundwater contamination by some residents of Stoughton, Mass., according to an article in

Bishop’s Landing residents have discovered bacterial contamination in their wells, and when they look out their windows, they see tombstones. Some people live within 50 feet of a cemetery and are now wondering if there’s a connection to their tainted water.

According to the World Health Organization, which actually funded a study on this topic, human corpses, as we might expect, contribute contaminants to percolating water. These include bacteria, viruses, and organic and inorganic chemical decomposition products. When the cemetery is situated on soil that percolates well, such as sand or gravel, the contaminants make their way into the groundwater, sometimes even into aquifers.

Cemeteries, also called “special kinds of landfills” in the report, increase concentrations of naturally-occurring organic and inorganic substances that can make groundwater non-potable. The report also pointed out that risks would be greater to those who get their water from wells.

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