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RI Department of Environmental Management
DEM'S WELLHEAD PROTECTION REPORT AVAILABLE
Wellhead Protection Program Biennial Report (1997-1999)- in Adobe Acrobat format
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PROVIDENCE - The Department of Environmental Management has released its biennial report on the state's wellhead protection program, which shows continued progress in developing and implementing plans to protect public drinking water wells from groundwater contamination.
In the period covered by the report, 1997 - 1999, the percentage of community water supply systems serving year-round residents that are addressed by a wellhead protection plan increased from 6% to 52%. The percentage of other water supply systems addressed by a plan, such as those serving schools and restaurants, increased from 4% to 25%. Potential pollution sources have been inventoried in 95% of the community water systems.
"Wellhead protection is extremely important in the many Rhode Island communities that are entirely dependent on groundwater for their drinking water supplies," points out Alicia Good, Assistant Director of DEM's Office of Water Resources. As of June 1999, there were 671 public wells in 31 communities covered by the wellhead protection program, and 93,660 acres designated as wellhead protection areas.
To support wellhead protection, DEM last year awarded $60,000 in federal funds to five communities and two suppliers for a range of projects, including public education, wellhead protection area road signs, a teacher training program, underground storage tank removal, adoption of a groundwater protection ordinance and pollution prevention. Historically, gasoline from leaking underground storage tanks has been one of the leading causes of groundwater contamination. Significant progress has been made in decreasing the threat from these tanks. Ninety-seven percent of all commercial tanks in Rhode Island have been upgraded or repaired within the past few years in accordance with federal and state requirements. The remaining three percent are the subject of ongoing enforcement actions by DEM.
The Rhode Island Wellhead Protection Program was developed by DEM in 1990, with assistance from other state and local agencies, in recognition of the importance of groundwater as a drinking water source. Two-thirds of Rhode Island communities rely in whole or in significant part on groundwater resources for drinking water supplies. The nature of groundwater resources, however, makes them vulnerable to contamination.
As part of the program, local communities and large water suppliers are called upon to inventory known and potential sources of groundwater contamination within their wellhead areas, and develop plans to protect the groundwater from such contaminants as nutrients, pesticides, solvents and other industrial organic chemicals, stored petroleum, and road deicing chemicals.
The Wellhead Protection Program is being coordinated with the RI Department of Health's Source Water Assessment Program, which will be assessing the susceptibility of each drinking water supply to contamination and then distributing these assessments to the public. It is anticipated that the Source Water Assessment Program will generate an increased awareness of the need to adopt wellhead protection plans.
DEM has recently made additional funds available to suppliers and municipalities for implementation of wellhead protection strategies. "Protection of the state's groundwater resources will require continued efforts on behalf of the state and local governments, the water suppliers and the public, with success measured by our ability to sustain these vital resources in a condition free of contamination," Good said.
DEM's Wellhead Protection Report includes information on the delineation of wellhead protection areas, implementation of protection strategies, and plans for the future. It also provides an overview of the wellhead protection program.
Copies of the report are available by calling Ernest Panciera at DEM's Office of Water Resources as 222-4700 ext. 7603. It is also available on DEM's website, at www.dem.state.ri.us.