Up until the early 1970s when The US Congress passed The Clean Water Act, industrial chemicals and petroleum products were routinely dumped onto the ground or poured down wells. In those days, few people understood groundwater hydrology, and disposing of chemical waste underground seemed like a safe and easy solution.
Depending on the chemistry, underground pollution can linger for centuries, contaminating the aquifers that people rely on for drinking water. Not only is the groundwater threatened, but aquifers discharge into streams, rivers and lakes, devastating ecosystems and endangering the people that live and work near the compromised water body. Cleanup of contaminated soil and groundwater was extremely expensive, and often times ineffective.
Starting in the 1980s, new techniques for remediating contaminated soil started to emerge. Some of the techniques included underground barriers that decontaminate the pollution as groundwater passed through it. Other techniques such as bioremediation (using microbes) and phytoremediation (using plants) showed promise. In the 1990s, a lot of research was carried out, and new and better ways of treating contaminated soil with bacteria, plants and fungus appeared in the scientific literature.
Today, there are many success stories involving the cleanup of contaminated soil and there are more research institutions and private companies continuing to develop better and more cost effective ways to restore contaminated soil. One such success story is the work of Environ International Corporation (ENVIRON) with a data acquisition network provided by Stevens Water Monitoring Systems. Environ is an environmental consulting company performing assessment/remediation services for clients worldwide.