SOURCE WATER ASSESSMENT PROGRAM
Public Meeting and Workshop
Monday, November 23, 1998
7:00 PM 9:00 PM
1. Can you comment on the mercury problem in the state?
The sources of mercury include the burning of fossil fuels, compressor stations for petroleum products, and natural occurrence. It is ultimately deposited in water bodies where it is taken up by fish and becomes stored in the fish tissues. This is why advisories are posted for consuming fish caught in affected waterways. DEQ collects and analyses fish tissues, sediment samples and Spanish moss for mercury. The mercury gets into the fish by a process known as methylation. It's associated with waterways high in organic content and acidic in nature, interacting with bacteria. Many Louisiana waterways provide a "natural system" to methylize mercury, making it available in the food chain.
2. On your sensitivity weighting factors, you don't show anything to do with the pumping capacity of any of the wells. An area with lower production wells will draw less water (and potential contaminants) toward their wells than one with high production wells. Shouldn't this be added to the weighting factors?
This is a good point and it makes sense theoretically. The problem is data availability. Most of the ground water systems in the state are small systems and they often do not have production information on their wells. In fact, a number of systems are not even metered so they have no idea how much water is produced and consumed. For the sake of ultimate comparison across all systems in the state, we must use the same types of data for each system so that we're comparing "apples to apples" so to speak. In addition, while the rate of discharge from the well is important in determining the rate of contaminant migration, it is also heavily influenced by aquifer hydraulic properties such as the hydraulic conductivity and the hydraulic gradient. We have taken averages of these values into consideration in the development of the ranking scheme but again, we do not have site-specific data for each system. These values are needed in order to do a volumetric calculation of well discharge.
3. It seems that the susceptibility analyses could be used as leverage in lowering the property values in areas that are susceptible. It could be a value-adding tool for property with low numbers and a devaluation tool for those with higher numbers.
We want to emphasize that the vulnerability numbers are based on potential sources of contamination. If there are a large number of potential sources of contamination close to a well, the potential for susceptibility number will go up for the mere fact that they are there. This does not mean, however, that the well will ever become contaminated. The sole purpose of the potential for susceptibility numbers is to compare all water systems in the state to prioritize protection activities so areas that have higher numbers will actually be targeted for protection activities first, thereby reducing the potential for contamination. The numbers should not be used in any other context.
4. Is there a way to get a copy of the WHPP video to show on public access television locally?
Yes, it is available free of charge. There is also a free Teacher's Guide available. You can contact any of us in the Aquifer Evaluation and Protection Section and we will send you a copy. Our names and phone number are in your handouts. You can also see us after the meeting and we can take your name and address and send you a copy.
5. For vulnerability considerations, if one of the largest toxic waste incinerators in the nation were opened as proposed, wouldn't that make any community along Route 90 and 182 a very vulnerable area?
While we don't have the specifics of the proposed permit, any such facility in a delineated source water protection area would be considered a potential source of contamination. At this time, however, we do not know if the proposed facility is located in a source water protection area because the areas have not been delineated.
6. What about transportation routes, especially those used to transport hazardous materials?
Hazardous Waste Transportation Routes, roads, railroads, pipelines and sewer lines are line potential sources of contamination (as opposed to point sources) subject to spills and leaks. They will be included in the assessments and rated based on a pertinent number per square mile in the delineated area. The more miles of transportation routes in a delineated area, the higher the vulnerability number will be.
7. How often are you going to update the data? Anything permitted after the initial assessment won't be considered. Will you be notified of any new permitted facilities in the state?
Once the programs are established for each water system it will be the system's program. It will be a local program to protect their drinking water supply. It's up to the system to update their inventory and submit the updates to DEQ so that they can be added to our database. Our staff size is not sufficient to continuously re-survey and update the assessments for every system in the state. The department is currently under a reorganization to consolidate and streamline operations. It is possible that in the future the permit tracking system could be linked with the source water assessment database so that we could determine if newly permitted facilities are located within a source water protection area.
8. How much information are you going to collect on each facility? Are you going to review assessment reports for facilities with known contamination and identify all materials present at the site, or will you just locate the site on a map?
The source water assessment program will simply locate the facilities that are located within delineated source water protection areas and assign a risk ranking to each one. We will use databases from DEQ and other agencies with regulatory authority to supplement the information collected in the field. The field staff will work with local people, especially the water department staff to locate potential sources of contamination. Hence, local knowledge of any facilities of concern can be incorporated into the assessments. With a 3½-year time limit, limited funds, and a limited staff we cannot go into great detail at each and every site we visit. It is beyond the scope of the assessment program. A more in-depth study of the facilities can be done in the protection phase, once the initial assessment is complete.
9. What are we supposed to do with the potential source list that you provided?
We would like for you to review it and provide comments if you have any. If you disagree with something on the list, how it's been ranked, or if you have any additions we would like to know about it. If you have any questions or comments after you leave the meeting you can us the question/comment forms we've provided and send them to us by mail, fax, or e-mail.
10. I appreciate you all listening to what's been shared here tonight. I work in a health care facility and I work with a woman who became ill from E-coli contamination in water and I can see what such illness can do to people. I thank you for what you are doing to help protect us.
Thank you. We're doing our best with the resources we have. We have about 2.1 million dollars and 3½-years to complete this program. It might sound like a lot but we have 2002 water systems to assess. We're trying to make the scope of this program manageable and at the same time produce a useable product that we can enhance in the future.
11. I know you don't have the resources to investigate this, but you should at least consider adding irrigation wells to the list. A few parishes such as Vermilion, St. Landry, and Acadia have a tremendous amount of large capacity irrigation wells located near community wells serving trailer parks and subdivisions. When those irrigation wells are pumping, the quality of the water in the community wells and some domestic wells in the area changes tremendously. The impact and change in flow caused by these wells should be considered. In addition, there is at least one case where a community well went dry for days due to the pumpage of a nearby irrigation well.
We will add irrigation wells to the list and identify them in delineated areas wherever possible.
12. Could you publish the final susceptibility ranking comparing all systems in the state?
Yes, we will publish the final potential for susceptibility ranking when all systems are assessed. This will not be completed until 2003 when all systems are complete.
13. Are you in touch with other states to see what they are doing?
Yes, we have 2 meetings every year with the other EPA Region 6 states, which include Texas, Arkansas, Oklahoma, and New Mexico. We have also attended conferences whereby we have made contacts with several other states. The Internet has also served as a valuable communication tool between states.
SWAP Staff Comment: We received valuable input at this meeting regarding SWAP. However, there were several citizens in attendance at this meeting with concerns about several facilities or contaminated sites in the surrounding area. The specific site issues were beyond our area of expertise. It became difficult to direct the focus of the question and comment session on public input into development of the SWAP versus these issues. The SWAP staff agreed to pass on these concerns to the appropriate higher level DEQ personnel and this was done. The responsiveness summary above includes the questions and comments related to SWAP issues only.