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New USGS groundwater studies explain what, when, and how contaminants may reach public-supply wells.

All wells are not equally vulnerable to contamination because of differences in three factors: the general chemistry of the aquifer, groundwater age, and direct paths within aquifer systems that allow water and contaminants to reach a well.

More than 100 million people in the United States receive their drinking water from public groundwater systems, which can be vulnerable to naturally occurring contaminants such as radon, uranium, arsenic, and man-made compounds, including fertilizers, septic-tank leachate, solvents and gasoline hydrocarbons.

Complete findings, fact sheets, maps and decision support tools are available at the USGS site.