The problem of groundwater contamination by the common chlorinated industrial solvents is becoming increasingly apparent in Britain. Pollution is known to have occurred widely as a result of casual or accidental discharge of such chemicals over many decades. Two case histories demonstrate that the combination of solvent physicochemical properties and Chalk hydrogeological characteristics can result in both extensive transport and extreme persistence in this aquifer.

Adequately proving the source of groundwater contamination is onerous. Individual pollution problems are equally likely to be the legacy of past industrial activity as the effect of current industrial practice. At least in its most direct sense this renders the ‘polluter-pays’ principle ineffective. The situation is further complicated by the technical difficulty, excessive cost and inadequate definition of aquifer restoration. Modifications and clarifications to policy are required to provide a more rational basis for the alleviation of this ground-water pollution problem.

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