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is wellhead protection?
is a preventative program to protect public water supply systems.
The goal is to prevent contaminants from entering public supply
is water occurring in the zone of saturation in an aquifer or soil.
It includes water beneath the surface of the earth which saturates the pores
and fractures of sand, gravel, and rock formations. DIAGRAM
does groundwater come from?
begins as precipitation that is absorbed into the ground. Much of
the precipitation is taken up by plant roots and evapotranspired.
What makes it beyond to root zone is pulled down by gravity until
it reaches the water table. Below the water table all the pore space
in the soil is filled with water. This is the saturated zone. DIAGRAM
are the types of contaminants?
There are three
basic types of contaminants. They are microorganisms, inorganic
chemicals, and organic chemicals.
contaminants include bacteria (i.e. E. coli and Salmonella), viruses,
protozoa (i.e. Cryptosporidium and Giardia lamblia) and parasites.
They are usually just a concern for shallow wells as the soil
does a fairly good job of trapping them.
chemicals are chemicals such as nitrate, arsenic, and metals. Many
of these chemicals are found naturally in the soil and are not
in high enough concentrations to cause harm. Public Water Supplies
are required to monitor for them. Many land uses can increase
their concentrations. For example, applying too much fertilizer can increase
the amount of nitrate in the groundwater. Intake of water high in nitrates
can cause methemoglobinemia (blue baby syndrome) in infants, which
reduces the blood's ability to carry oxygen. If left untreated
it can be fatal.
- Organic chemicals include pollutants
such as fuels, solvents, and pesticides. It only takes a small amount of these chemicals
to cause health concerns. These chemicals have a tendency to do
one of three things when they come into contact with water. How
they react is based on their physical and chemical properties.
- Some of the pollutants dissolve in the water, and are able to travel long distances from their source.
They can also be distributed from the top of the aquifer to
the bottom. An example of a chemical that dissolves is MTBE
(methyl tertiary butyl ether), a commonly used fuel additive.
- The second
type floats on the surface of the water because they are lighter than
water. An example of this type of chemical would be gasoline.
- The third
type sinks down to the bottom of the aquifer and flows along
the bottom of the aquifer because they are heavier than water. These dense, nonaqueous phase pollutants (DNAPLs) are especially difficult to remove.
can groundwater be contaminated?
infiltrates the soil, it can pick up contaminants from the surface of the
ground or from the surrounding soil. The water may dissolve the
contaminant or just carry it in to the aquifer. Some contaminants
can be transported great distances from their source. Groundwater
travels very slowly; therefore, little dilution or dispersion of
the contaminant usually occurs. The contaminant forms a concentrated
plume that follows the groundwater flow path. DIAGRAM
are the potential sources of contamination?
There are many
different potential sources of contamination. Anywhere that has
or uses chemicals can be considered a potential source. Some of
the commonly known sources of contaminants are underground storage
tanks (USTs), septic tanks, surface impoundments, agricultural activities,
landfills, industries, drycleaners, abandoned wells, highway de-icing,
accidents, and illegal dumping.
is a Wellhead Protection Plan?
A Wellhead Protection
Plan is a program written by a local team to protect public water
supply systems from potential sources of groundwater contamination.
It is done by forming a wellhead protection team to delineate the
area that needs protection, taking an inventory of potential sources
of contamination, using appropriate management strategies, developing
contingency plans, planning for future wells, and involving the
public in the development and implementation process. For more information
on the process please visit History
is responsible for Wellhead Protection?
is a voluntary program, so it is the community that is responsible
for establishing their program. This does not mean that they have
to do it all on their own. There are many people and agencies that
are more than willing to help communities get their programs started.
Many of the communities that already have their WHPP up and running
are willing and able to share pointers and
helpful tips. Other agencies willing to help are the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ), Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (MDARD) and MSU.
do we need a Wellhead Protection Plan?
needs a clean source of drinking water. If your community's source
of drinking water is from wells, they need to be protected from
contamination. A WHPP is in the best interest of the community because
it protects the public health, the environment, and economy. It
is an investment in the community.
is the Wellhead Protection Area?
A Wellhead Protection
Area (WHPA) is a geographically designated surface and subsurface
area surrounding a water well or well field, supplying a Public
Water System, through which contaminants are reasonably likely to
move toward and reach such water well or well field. This is an
area where groundwater protection is emphasized. A WHPA includes
at least the delineated capture zone area, but could be influenced
by other factors such as existing land use and zoning, site and
facility identification and location, political boundaries, natural
features, and environmentally sensitive areas. DIAGRAM
large is the Wellhead Protection Area?
A WHPA can be
many varying sizes depending on a number of factors. Some of these
factors include the pumping rate, the surrounding geology and characteristics
of the aquifer, and the time of travel for pollutants. Michigan's WHPP
requires a 10 year time of travel to insure that if the groundwater
were to become contaminated there would be adequate time to devise
a plan to deal with the contamination before it reaches the well.
WHPAs may extend several thousand feet upgradient of the well to
can I do?
protection begins at home. The way you dispose of the products you
use can contribute to the contamination of your community's groundwater.
Products like motor oil, pesticides, leftover paints or paint cans,
weed killers, household cleaners, flea collars, mothballs, and a
number of medicines contain materials that can be harmful to groundwater.
The average American gets rid of approximately one pound of this
type of waste each year. This may seem inconsequential but it is
quite large when you multiply it by the number of people in your
community. Here are some tips for wisely managing household hazardous waste:
dump it on the ground
- It can contaminate the soil and leach into the groundwater
put it in the trash
- Community landfills are not equipped to handle hazardous materials.
pour it down the drain
- Septic tanks and waste treatment facilities are not able to
treat it and it can interfere with the systems ability to treat
chemicals in a safe place
- They should be kept away from the elements and out of reach
of children and pets.
of harmful materials properly
- Find out where and how to safely get rid of your household hazardous
products. Many communities have household hazardous waste collection
the three R's
the amount of chemicals that you use. They are not always necessary
to complete a job.
materials for other uses. If you bathe your dog in an outside
tub, use the water on your lawn.
used motor oil, anti freeze, dead batteries, and pesticide
possible, substitute a non-hazardous product
- Look for "environmentally friendly" products at the
only as much as you need
- Larger quantities may be less expensive, but cause a problem
when trying to dispose of them safely.
water conservation in mind with all your daily activities
- By reducing the total quantity withdrawn, the rate of withdrawal
and the spread of any contaminant can be reduced. For more information
on what you can do to conserve water, visit the Environmental Protections Agency’s Groundwater Primer's Water Conservation page.
If you think
you cannot have a positive influence on the environment, you need
to reconsider. The right choices can reduce waste, save money, maximize
resources, and protect the environment. The choices you make can
and do make a big difference.
Wellhead Protection Program