By Erin Weaver
EPA granted an aquifer exemption to a uranium mine at Christensen Ranch in Wyoming, where radioactive waste is now injected into a large aquifer previously considered too deep to use for drinking water.
U.S. water policy could be destroying a future source of drinking water if a project under way in Mexico City to draw drinking water from a mile-deep aquifer proves feasible.
In the face of worsening water shortages, Mexico City’s 20 million residents currently depend on water pumped in from elsewhere and on the region’s shallow aquifers, the depletion of which is causing the ground to sink, damaging buildings and underground water pipes and exacerbating the problem. The newly discovered deep reservoir is still being explored, but authorities hope it will provide up to a century’s worth of drinking water.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), meanwhile, routinely issues permits allowing mining companies and other industries to pollute aquifers currently considered “too deep” to provide drinking water; more than 1,500 such permits have been issued, many of them in western states facing increasing drought. Researchers in Europe have found reservoirs of water several miles underground—depths that, in the U.S., have made aquifers eligible for the injection of thousands of gallons per day of radioactive waste.
March 1, 2013