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Pollution of Groundwater

 

During the last few decades, many human activities resulted in the introduction of pollutants into groundwater, which in turn resulted in the degradation of its quality rendering it even more useless for any further use. The consequences of pollution on people’s health, the economy of the country and in general the environment have, nowadays, been recognised.  Systematic and co-ordinated efforts are being made not only to prevent it but to even reverse the adverse situation existing with several aquifers.

 

The main causes of pollution of groundwater are mainly the disposal and introduction of the following substances and products into the earth: a) household waste (liquid and solid); b) industrial waste; c) fertilisers; d) insecticides and pesticides; e) farm waste; and f) mine waste (liquid and solid) (Photos E and E). Seawater could be added to the above substances, which when intruding into the coastal aquifers causes degradation of the quality of groundwater on the one hand and damage to the aquifers themselves on the other.

 

The practice followed in Cyprus, with regards to household liquid waste, has been that of disposing it into the ground through absorption wells. Local aquifers are frequently affected this way, with the degradation of the quality of groundwater due to the introduction of microbes, nitrate salts, rare elements like boron and phosphorus and other substances. In the densely populated area of Nicosia the nitrate salts and boron attain concentrations of 65-195 mg/l and 3 mg/l respectively. Sewerage systems have been constructed over large parts of the towns, which are being expanded continuously. In this way the waste is treated, purified and reused, while in the meantime the aquifers are protected from further pollution.

 

Microbiological contamination has significantly occurred in the Morphou Aquifer in the northern part of Cyprus. This pollution is due to nitrite contamination around Morphou and the other areas of the Morphou Groundwater Basin. It is thought that this problem has been caused by the direct introduction into the ground of untreated household waste as no sewerage networks have been constructed in the area. This problem is also seen in the Kyrenia Coastal Plain and Famagusta coastal aquifer.

 

The disposal of industrial waste is an additional cause of pollution. Through this waste dangerous toxic substances and heavy metals may be introduced into the aquifers. In order to avoid further pollution from this source, treatment plants at Vathia Gonia near the village of Potamia and in the industrial area of Limassol have already been constructed.

 

The agricultural activities have expanded considerably since the 1950s with the consequent increase in the use of fertilisers, insecticides and pesticides. Through irrigation and rainfall, portions of the above substances pass into the ground and reach the aquifers, gradually affecting the quality of groundwater and rendering it finally unsuitable for domestic use. In certain areas, including those of Akrotiri and Kokkinochoria, where intense farming is carried out, groundwater faces a very serious problem of pollution.

 

Animal husbandry also causes problems of pollution to the aquifers through the disposal of waste into the ground and by the downward infiltration of microbes and nitrate salts into the aquifers. In the Orounda-Peristerona area the aquifer has been polluted from such activities and several water supply boreholes have been abandoned. The solution to such problems can be found in the treatment of waste as well as in the reduction of salts used in animal food.

 

Mining and quarrying activities in various parts of Cyprus often cause pollution to the aquifers. The most serious problems come from copper mines where rainwater coming into contact with the ore becomes acidic and dissolves and transports high concentration of salts of copper and iron as well as trace elements to the groundwater. This problem occurred in the Xeros Dam soon after it was built at the beginning of 1992. The dam site is very near to the abandoned galleries and mineralisation occurrences on the banks of the river. The low-grade ore heaps and the remains of crushed ore are the sources of contamination of the dam water, especially in winter. Some heavy metal contents in surficial waters are over the threshold values, according to the international water standards. Programmes carried out recently by the GSD aimed at studying and assessing the impacts from such polluting sources and inventing ways of minimising these impacts.

 

 

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