Environmental geotechnology, sometimes referred to as geoenvironmental engineering is an interdisciplinary field that originated by blending environmental engineering and geotechnology (1). Environmental geotechnology encompasses soil science and atmospheric sciences thereby linking the biogeochemical cycles, lithosphere, hydrosphere and geomicrosphere (2). Currently the population has been escalating drastically thereby upsetting the biogeochemical cycles and has resulted in a plethora of environmental issues. Although geoenvironmental technology is mainly concerned about soil and its associated factors, it is noteworthy to acknowledge the fact that the biogeochemical cycles are closely linked with each other and imbalance of one cycle would immediately reflect in the other cycles (3).
Geoenvironmental issues may either be natural or man-made. While issues like tsunami, earthquakes etc. come under natural causes, pollution is the major contributor to man-made environmental issues. Pollution refers to the introduction of any contaminant into air, water or soil that alters that natural environment (4). This report focuses mainly on pollution and its impact in the geoenvironment with the aid of case studies.
Contamination adversely affects the geoenvironment which in turn affects our quality of life. Improper waste disposal and inadequate engineering techniques to contain the large quantity of waste generated each day contribute to a strikingly unhygienic environment which, in addition to serving as a breeding ground for vector-borne diseases also upset the natural microbial flora (5). Municipal dump sites and improper waste containment and disposal has been indicated in studies as major sources of vector-borne disease origin and transmission (6).
When precipitation occurs in areas where waste has been indiscriminately dumped, it percolates into the ground while still carrying the dissolved contaminants that ultimately result in contamination of groundwater, generating a leachate (contaminated groundwater) (7). Depending on the waste dumped at the site, the leachate may contain harmless municipal waste contaminants to highly toxic heavy metals like lead, mercury etc. Groundwater generally tends to flow slowly and the level to which the leachate gets distributed largely depends on the plume behavior of the groundwater (8). After the groundwater has got contaminated, it can very quickly contaminate any enclosed water body nearby like a pond or lake. In case of flowing water bodies like rivers, the leachate gets carried even further contaminating an even larger area.
Most of the heavy metals and microelements can easily get incorporated into all living organisms. When fresh water sources are contaminated, the contaminants get trapped and is ingested by planktons and other aquatic organisms (9). When these algae, fishes etc. are consumed by animals and humans, heavy metal poisoning and a variety of other diseases result. In addition, plants can also easily absorb and incorporate these contaminants when this water is used for irrigation and agriculture which in turn also result in a variety of diseases.
One of the proven cases of heavy metal poisoning was the Kodaikanal mercury poisoning incident that resulted from mercury (Hg) contamination by Hindustan Unilever,
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