Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Private Well Construction Standards for Pennsylvania

Private Well Construction Standards


1. Protect health and safety for the citizens.

2. Ensure the long-term quality, quantity, and reliability of the groundwater aquifer.

3. Prevent direct and indirect contamination of the aquifer.

4. Minimize the adverse impacts to the environment.

5. Private wells are currently not regulated under Pennsylvania Code, Chapter 109.

6. Pennsylvania is second among all states in the number of residences served by private water wells, with more than a million households relying on private wells. But Pennsylvania is among just two states that do not have private water well construction standards or certification requirements for drilling contractors and operators.

7. Improperly constructed private wells facilitate groundwater contamination.

What is a private well?

This is a well that does not meet the definition of a public water system. A private well is a well that has less than 15 service connection or serves less than 25 people daily for at least 60 days per year (PADEP, Non-Community System Design Standards, Document No 383-2128-108 (5/21/2001)).

Current State Law (Pennsylvania)

1. Public water systems (PADEP) or withdrawals of over 20,000 gpd are regulated (River Basin Commission). This regulations related to the siting, construction, testing, operation, water withdrawal, regular reporting, and consumptive use.

2. Proposed regulations may require systems of 10,000 gpd or more to be registered and reported to the PADEP (Water Planning Act 220, December 2002) Act 220 does NOT include metering of home water wells.

3. Act 610 requires a licensed driller to drill any well for the purpose of accessing groundwater. This includes, in addition to wells for water withdrawal, wells for geothermal heat systems, monitoring or observation wells, test wells, recharge wells, and waste disposal wells. Although Act 610 has required drillers to submit records for all wells drilled since 1966, at times they are less than diligent at doing so. Because there is no registration of individual wells we have no way of verifying how many wells each driller completes in a year. (Water Well Drillers License Act, the act of May 29, 1956 (P.L.1840, No.610), 32 P.S. Sections 645.1-645.13 ). The act has a provision for well abandonment, but there is no tracking or registration for individual private wells.


Key Features of a Well Ordinance - My Suggestions

1. Standards should relate to private – non-regulated wells.

2. Provide Isolation Distances that include recommendations for set-backs from building foundations, floodways, animal feedlots, septage disposal areas, chemical storage areas, etc. and not just isolation distances from septic tanks, property lines, and disposal fields.

3. Standard should provide the recommendation for the use of steel casingThe casing should be 19# casing that is either threaded and coupled or welded around the perimeter by a certified welder and the casing should be fitted with a driveshoe.

4. Casing should penetrate – a minimum of 40 feet below grade and 10 feet into firm bedrock, whichever is greater.

5. All wells should be fitted with a sanitary seal and all wells should have the annular space cement or neat cement grouted. The grout should extend to the anticipated depth of the pitless adapter. The casing should extend at least 18 inches above grade and outside of the floodplain or floodway. If within the floodplain, the casing should extend 3 feet above the 100 year flood elevation.

6. All wells should be shock disinfected and purged.

7. All wells should have a well drilling log and yield test. Yield test should be a minimum of a blown yield test.

8. Wells should be sampled and tested. At a minimum, the testing should be for pH, conductivity, total coliform, iron, mangansese, total hardness, and alkalinity.

9. Ordinance should require that the driller submit information to the local agency, landowner or homeowner, and other agencies as required by law.

10. Require well drillers to complete a more formal training and certification process, such as the program developed by the National Groundwater Association.

11. Develop and encourage the creation of community educational programs, such as the Carbon County Groundwater Guardians - http://www.carbonwaters.org/

and the Center for Environmental Quality at Wilkes University - Homeowner Outreach Program

Article Prepared by Mr. Brian Oram, Professional Geologist
B.F. Environmental Consultants Inc.

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