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309 N 5th St, Norfolk, NE 68701
Phone: (402) 844-2000

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Wellhead Protection Plan

Background

The following explanation of a Wellhead Protection Program (WHPP) is taken from the Nebraska Department of Environmental Quality web page, Wellhead Protection Newsletter 1.  It explains the basic purpose and background of WHPPs across the State.

What

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) mandate for the creation of State wellhead protection programs has existed since 1986.  In the summer of 1989, Nebraska submitted its plan for wellhead protection to EPA.  The plan was approved by EPA in June 1991.  Wellhead protection was incorporated into Nebraska 's groundwater standards (Title 118) in September 1991.  Agricultural Chemical Containment Regulations (Title 198, February 1994) and Livestock Waste Regulations (Title 130, July 1995) now include wellhead protection provisions.
The Nebraska WHPP is intended to prevent groundwater pollution which could enter public water supply wells and make them unusable.   Nebraska ’s public water supplies include all systems regularly supplying drinking water to 25 or more people or having 15 or more service connections.  This includes municipal water supplies, rural water districts, and sanitary improvement districts; some self supplied industries and institutions; publicly and privately owned recreation facilities; and restaurants, hotels, service stations and other public accommodations.  About 60 percent of Nebraska ’s population uses a public water supply as a primary drinking water source.

The groundwater pollution addressed by the WHPP includes all human-caused contamination which is potentially harmful to human health.  The basic approach of Nebraska ’s WHPP is minimization of potentially polluting activities on the land around public water supply wells. The land which will be protected is known as a Wellhead Protection Area (WHPA).

Why

At any given time, about 10 percent of Nebraska ’s public water suppliers must deal with the problem of one or more human-caused contaminants in one or more of their wells. Most are eventually able to drill new, safe wells. To continue delivering drinkable water, some suppliers have had to provide bottled water, or even shut down one or more of their wells. In several towns, local businesses have been severely hurt by costly cleanups of hazardous pollutants. All of these situations are costly and disruptive. The problem of groundwater contaminants in public water supplies seems unending. New problems are discovered about as rapidly as existing problems are remedied.

It is clear that prevention of new groundwater contamination is the only means by which the gradually increasing drain on the public resources caused by this contamination can ever be reduced. This realization has spread both nationally and internationally for the same reasons as in Nebraska . The amendments to the Safe Drinking Water Act passed by congress in 1986 require individual states to develop preventive measures to protect public water supply wells from human-caused groundwater contamination.

How

Wellhead protection activities will center on WHPAs, which are drawn on maps as ground surface areas.  However, WHPAs are three-dimensional, including portions of the groundwater aquifer, the unsaturated soil above the water table, and any surface water passing near the public water supply well.  The WHPA includes the portion of each of these media through which human-caused contamination could be reasonably expected to be drawn into the public water supply well within the planned lifetime of the well.  For map drawing, this lifetime is assumed to be 20 years.  WHPA boundaries follow section lines or other visible landscape features around the outside of the 20-year time-of-travel thresholds.

Potential wellhead protection activities include:

  1. Analysis of existing groundwater field data
  2. Delineation of WHPAs
  3. Education of economic development entities (such as banks) about wellhead protection
  4. Training of contaminant source inventory workers
  5. Contaminant source inventory
  6. Marking of WHPA boundaries
  7. Supplementary water testing in existing wells
  8. Hydrogeologic field investigations:
    1. Test drilling
    2. Geophysics
    3. Test pumping
    4. Construction and sampling of groundwater monitoring wells
  9. Refinement of WHPAs
  10. Siting of new wells
  11. Contaminant source management:
    1. Zoning WHPAs to protect them from contaminant source encroachment
    2. Purchase of land or certain rights attached thereto
    3. Relocation of water supply wells or potential contaminant sources
    4. Legal defense of WHPA zoning
    5. Compensation for condemned property or other rights

Who

On the state level, the Nebraska Wellhead Protection program is administered by the Nebraska Department of Environmental Quality (NDEQ) with major assistance from Nebraska Health and Human Services (NHHS). These agencies are carrying out activities 1-4 listed above. Public water suppliers will play a large role in wellhead protection, starting with their choice of a local wellhead protection option. No state authority exists with regard to most of the actions (Activities 5-11) which would be necessary to prevent groundwater contamination from affecting public water supply wells. Therefore, such actions will probably have to be taken by local governments as they are needed.

For technical help with wellhead protection, public water suppliers can turn to NDEQ, NHHS, the Nebraska Rural Water Association, and several other institutions. These include the State Fire Marshal's office, the University of Nebraska-Lincoln (UN-L) Geology and Engineering departments, the Conservation and Survey Division of UN-L, the UN-L Water Center , Cooperative Extension, the United States Geological Survey, the Agricultural Research Service, the Natural Resources Conservation Service, the Natural Resources Districts, and the National Water Well Association.

For legal and institutional help, public water suppliers will be able to enlist the aid of NHHS, the Natural Resources Districts, the League of Nebraska Municipalities, the Nebraska Rural Water Association, the U.S. Department of Agriculture Farm Service Agency, the Nebraska Natural Resources Commission, the Nebraska Department of Economic Development, local financial institutions, and the EPA.