Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Pennsyvlania SB 777- Comments related to Sourcewater Protection, Wellhead Protection, and Landuse

Comments related to Pennsyvlania SB 777 - For a description of the bill 

The primary concerns with this proposed bill is the following:

1. The proposed bill - converts a guidance document for developing sourcewater protection plan and converts it to law.
2. In the process of creating SB 777 - a number of key items were excluded from the proposed legislation that are included in the guidance document.
3. If a map was generated for PA that used the 1250 foot distance from a stream channel, I believe this map would show that the extent of this proposed legislation is significant.  The actual guidance document uses a travel time of 5 hours to delineate Zone A for surfacewater reservoirs - the use of the 25 mile term in the proposed law is very misleading.   The goal of sourcewater protection is to identify critical areas, evaluate existing development and uses in the zone that may pose an impact, and developing control measures. 
4. This legislation attempts to expand local control of land beyond the zoning ordinance.  Since many of the water companies sold off their watershed lands in the mid to late 1980s- this legislation could potentially restrict the usage of the land by the landowner.
5. Wellhead Protection Plans and Sourcewater Protection Plans should be developed by the individual water companies, well or system owners, or municipalities that control the water system.  The control of the wellhead protection zone or source water protection zone should be based on control through ownership or the installation of specific engineering controls developed by the owner of the system and property.
6. The legislation is over reaching and unrealistic and because wellhead protection zones and sourcewater protection zones overlap municipal boundaries - the establishment of local ordinances to control activity and uses within these zones are not realistic.
7.The wording of the legislation is very vague - uses words like "could cause contamination".
8.Water Companies should be encouraged to develop Wellhead Protection Plans and Source Water Protection Plans and make recommendations regarding the need for developing specific standards or engineering controls for key areas within the watershed.
9. Rather than putting this legislation in place - lets do the following:

a. Funded Community Based Wellhead Protection Zone Delineations and Developing Sourcewater Protection Plans.
b. Identify "critical" areas where existing developments exist  or activities exist that has an impact or pose a impact and fund improving existing infrastructure to mitigate the existing impacts or fund the relocation of activities.
c. Fund education on non-point source pollution.

d. Purchase the development rights to key recharge areas or other areas within the watershed to protect the long-term reliability of the source.  In 1980, the water companies should not have sold the watershed land.

e. Conduct one or more pilot projects that use the sourcewater protection guidance manual to complete an assessment, develop a plan, and implement the plan through improvements and other requirements.  For example, it is my understanding the Virgin Island regulate the selection of the type of septic system based on the location of the site to the recharge area.  Therefore, it may be possible to identify zones that would reguire the use of additional engineering controls.

f. Install signage within the watershed to educate the public.

g. A bigger problem in PA is the lack of private well construction standards and the existing wells that are poorly constucted and causing groundwater contamination.

10. Lets not convert a guidance document into a regulation that will be difficult to enforce, regulate, and may be considered a taking.

11. Legislation is currently not in line with the existing Wellhead Protection Standards used for community water supplies.

12. The implementation of this legislation would have a significant impact on rural areas - where large urban areas use surfacewater reservoirs or groundwater withdrawals as a drinking water source - and would significantly impact small cities such as Wilkes Barre and Scranton - where large cities downgradient use the river as a drinking water source.

Just my thoughts

Brian Oram

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