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close this book Water purification, distribution and sewage disposal for Peace Corps volunteers
close this folder Section 7: Scope of disposal system projects in host communities
View the document Overview:
View the document Public health importance of excreta disposal
View the document How disease is carried from excreta
View the document The characteristics of an adequate system
View the document Possible sanitary measures in rural areas
View the document Soil and ground-water pollution
View the document Location of latrines and other excreta disposal facilities
View the document Sludge accumulation and the life of a pit privy
View the document Community participation
View the document Family participation
View the document Role of health department and other agencies
View the document Public versus private latrines
View the document Human factors
View the document Lesson plans

Soil and ground-water pollution

Knowing how soil and water are polluted by excrete provides useful information concerning the design of disposal facilities, especially their location with respect to sources of drinking-water supplies. After excreta are deposited on the ground or in pits, the bacteria, unable to move much by themselves, may be transported horizontally and downward into the ground by leaching liquids or urine, or by rain water. The distance of travel of bacteria in this way varies with several factors, the most important of which is the porosity of the soil. Their horizontal travel through soil in this manner is usually less than 3 ft. and the downward travel less than 10 ft. in pits open to heavy rains, and not more than 2 ft. normally in porous soils. There is relatively little migration of chemical and bacterial substances. Where the contamination does not enter the ground water, there is practically no danger of contaminating water supplies.

On the surface of the ground, only the earth immediately surrounding the faeces is likely to be contaminated, unless it is carried further by surface water such as rain and irrigation water, blown away by the wind, or picked up by the hair and feet of flies or other insects and animals.

Depending upon conditions of humidity and temperature, pathogenic bacteria and ova of parasitic worms will survive varying lengths of time in the ground. Pathogenic bacteria do not usually find soil a suitable environment for their multiplication, and will die within a few days. On the other hand, hookworm eggs will survive as many as five months in sewage. Hookworm disease is transmitted through contact of the skin, usually bare feet, with soil containing hookworm larvae. Other parasitic diseases are also transmitted when fresh faeces or sewage is used, during the growing season, to fertilize vegetable crops which are eaten raw.

If ground water is located near a source of infection within the distances mentioned above, it may become contaminated by harmful bacteria and by putrid chemical substances originating in faecal decomposition.

From the point of view of sanitation, the interest is in the maximum migrations and the fact that the direction of migration is always that of the flow of ground water. In locating wells, it must be remembered that the water within the circle of influence of the well flows towards the well. No part of the area of chemical or bacterial contamination may be within reach of the circle of influence of the well.


Fig. 64 Movement of Pollution in Underground Water

A = Top soil

B = Water-bearing formation

C = Direction of ground-water flow