If E. coli O157 bacteria get into a water system, anyone who drinks the water is at risk of serious illness, including hemolytic uremic syndrome. In some cases, those sickened have the right to file a lawsuit for compensation.
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Many types of water are utilized in water supply systems, including groundwater (referred to as aquifers), surface water (lakes and rivers), conservation, and sea water (with use of desalination). Once in the water supply system, the water is usually purified, disinfected, and sometimes fluoridated. Treated water then flows or is pumped to reservoirs. The public supply is accessed from these reservoirs. The wastewater is discharged in a sewer system, leading to a treatment plant. The treated water is discharged into a river, lake, or the sea, or is conserved and reused for landscaping, irrigation, or industrial use.
Groundwater contamination is a growing concern. The technical definition of groundwater is water that lies below the surface of the land. In public usage situations, though, groundwater usually refers to water underground that can be removed by wells, known as aquifers. If an aquifer becomes contaminated, it can affect a wide area and may take years to rectify. The most common sources of groundwater contamination include improper disposal of wastes, faulty septic tanks, lift station sewage leaks, landfills, pesticides, and fertilizers.
Once a source of groundwater for wells becomes contaminated, it can affect the drinking water for miles. In some cases, it is possible to sue for E. coli in a lawsuit for compensation.
Groundwater contamination is a very serious issue. Surveillance data since 1981, compiled by Marshfield Clinic, shows that approximately half of all waterborne disease outbreaks in this country were associated with contaminated groundwater, usually drinking well water contaminated by septic systems.