PFC in groundwater in parts of Giesenkirchen: residents need to know

According to the precautionary principle, a large-scale investigation area was initially determined. Within this area, the area actually affected – the so-called pollutant column – must be narrowed (© Stadt MG)
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Mönchengladbach. The Department of Environment provides answers to the most frequently asked questions about recently discovered pollution with PFCs.

In mid-March, the city administration informed politicians, the public and local residents that groundwater, not drinking water, may be contaminated with perfluorinated and polyfluorinated chemicals (PFCs) in parts of Giesenkirchen. Groundwater may not be used within a specified research area until further notice. Since then, many residents have used the city’s contact offer and contacted the environment department. These are the answers to the most frequently asked questions:

Exactly which area is affected?

In keeping with the precautionary principle, the Environmental Department initially identified a broad area of ​​investigation. Within this zone, the area actually affected – the so-called contaminant column – must be narrowed. The entire Giesenkirchen area was not explicitly affected, but initially about 700 meters in width and 1700 meters in length, which runs from An der Waldesruh through Stähn, Puffkohlen in the direction of Ruckes. The attached street plan shows exactly which streets belong to the comprehensive investigation area. It is also published at www.stadt.mg/pfc-giesenkirchen. Additional information on the topic of PFCs can also be found here.

Why can’t garden fountains even be used for irrigation?

It is clear to many that useful and healthy plants should not be watered with contaminated groundwater for health reasons. But why can’t you use it to water flowers or water the lawn? There are good reasons for that, too. For example, when spraying a lawn, aerosols are released, which means that pollutants are released into the air, spread further and, in the worst case, can be inhaled. Watering the flowers is also a problem, because contaminants can spread over a wider area. In this way, they are likely to get into uncontaminated soil and then seep into new areas of groundwater. Depending on how the groundwater flows here, pollutants can be “carried away” even further. Thus, not using groundwater not only serves to protect one’s health, but also ensures that pollution does not spread further. This is important so that you can successfully treat groundwater.

What’s next and how long will it take to solve the problem?

First of all, it is necessary to determine the already polluted area, the so-called column of pollutants, and find out the source of the pollution. For this purpose, more detailed measurements of the investigated area need to be made and analyzed over a longer period of time. Therefore, the environmental department has more groundwater measurement points set up. Individual measurements in private wells may also be required at a later time. The city asked for help from local residents, with a great response: 55 private wells were reported so that samples could be taken there if needed.

The manner in which the groundwater must ultimately be treated can only be determined when both the source and the exact extent of the column are known. It is therefore difficult to estimate the total duration of investigation and treatment measures. However, as a rule, the whole process takes several years. Where is current official information published? The city of Mönchengladbach publishes all information on groundwater pollution on the Internet on the website of the Department of the Environment: www.stadt.mg/pfc-giesenkirchen.

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