Rocket Fuel in Your Well Water? How to Detect and Eliminate It

How is it possible for rocket fuel to get into your drinking water? In fact, perchlorate, an ingredient in missile and rocket fuel, has been found in many water supplies near military sites and contractor facilities. Spills and leakage from these facilities cause this toxic industrial chemical to seep into groundwater.

But that’s not the only source of perchlorate in our drinking water. Perchlorate is also used to make fireworks, safety flares, explosives, airbags, and some fertilizers. In fact, fertilizers that contained perchlorate were manufactured in Chile, then were imported to the U.S. For many years, they were applied to American agricultural fields, adding more contamination to groundwater.

Perchlorate’s Unique Ability to Pollute Our Water

Why is there so much perchlorate in our water supply? First, perchlorate is very water-soluble. So rainfall on a field fertilized with one of these fertilizers or on which rocket fuel was spilled will take this chemical right into the soil. Once it’s in the soil, it is highly mobile. It will percolate through the soil to enter groundwater.

Making matters worse, when perchlorate makes its way to groundwater, it can travel for miles because it stays stable while in water. In one case, a percolate plume traveled nine miles from a safety flare manufacturer in Morgan Hill, California.

States Where Perchlorate Contamination Has Been Found

Highest concentrations of perchlorate have been detected along the East Coast from Massachusetts to Virginia, in Southern California and West Central Texas. It’s been found at lower concentrations in Arizona, New Mexico, Washington, Illinois, Minnesota, Ohio, Kentucky, the Carolinas, Georgia, Florida, Nebraska and Minnesota. There are even natural sources for perchlorate in the Southwest U.S.

In 1997, perchlorate was detected in Lake Mead and the Colorado River, leading to calls for environmental cleanup. The Lake Mead contamination was traced to two perchlorate manufacturing companies near Las Vegas. Remediation efforts have since removed more than 6,000 tons of this toxic chemical from groundwater and surface water.

In 2005, the Department of Defense reported that perchlorate releases had been identified at 284 of its installations. Of course, releases at military facilities are capable of affecting far more than just members of the military and their families. As harmful as this chemical is for those individuals, there are many civilian families far from the bases who may also be affected by the leakage and spills.

Perchlorate’s Harmful Effects on Humans

The Environmental Protection Agency has stated that once perchlorate is consumed, the main target of the chemical is the thyroid gland. Perchlorate interferes with the production of hormones by the thyroid, resulting in hypothyroidism. Some people exposed to chronic doses of perchlorate may therefore develop goiter.

Exposure to perchlorate by pregnant women is associated with delayed development and decreased learning capability in their children. Additionally, a 2007 research project in the Boston area tested the breast milk of 49 women and found that every sample was positive for perchlorate.

In 2011, the Environmental Protection Agency found that perchlorate was present in public drinking water at levels that presented a human health hazard. The EPA also noted that perchlorate accumulates in some food crop leaves, broad-leaf plants and tobacco plants. Therefore, exposure can occur from eating these food crops or consuming tobacco products.

The Important Question: Is Perchlorate in Your Water?

If you have any suspicion that your water supply contains perchlorate, we can settle the question for you. In addition to basic and comprehensive well water tests for homeowners, we can zero in on perchlorate. Our advanced research and testing facilities are ready to help you determine exactly what contaminants are in your water.

Once that is done, we take things a step further and help homeowners work out which water filtration or treatment system is right for the contaminants detected in their water. The best water results come from matching the filtration installation to the needs revealed by a detailed analysis.

When you need water testing to be sure you are providing your family with pure, healthy water, call us at (800) 344-9977. We have a variety of water tests to choose from, including one specifically for perchlorate.