SOURCE WATER ASSESSMENT PROGRAM
Public Meeting and Workshop
Thursday, October 15, 1998
7:00 PM 9:00 PM
1. Is the WHPP tape available to the public?
Yes, it is available free of charge to anyone interested. There is also a Teacher's Guide available that was developed as an instructional guide for use with the video in the classroom. Contact any of us in the Aquifer Evaluation and Protection Section to receive a copy. Our names and phone number are in your handouts.
2. Can you elaborate on the Mercury problem in our waterways?
The problem is not a water quality problem as much as it is a "biological" problem. The mercury is found in the sediments and is picked up by bottom dwelling organisms. These organisms are consumed by the fish and high mercury levels become concentrated in the fish tissue. This is why the advisories are posted for consuming fish caught in these waterways. The main source of the mercury is the sediments. The sediments in our area originate from the Ouachita Mountains to the north, which are naturally high in Mercury. Air deposition is another source. Mercury is a global contaminant that is naturally occurring. It also comes from man-made sources such as coal-fired power plants and waste incineration.
3. Are Underground Storage Tanks (USTs) supposed to be registered when they are closed?
A law passed in 1988 requires all USTs to be registered with the state. Currently, there are approximately 25,000 tanks registered and there are probably one-third that many that are not registered. When a tank is closed, the proper paperwork must be submitted to the state and soil samples are collected from the subsurface beneath the tanks to determine if there was any leakage. When the paperwork is received the database is amended to reflect the closure and the soil samples are analyzed at a lab. Further action is taken is the results of the soil samples show contamination.
4. How is the program going to be funded? How much funding is available? How much of the funding is federal funding?
The program is being funded from the federal Drinking Water State Revolving Fund. The funds are "Set Aside" funds of which about 2.1 million dollars is available to Louisiana for Source Water Assessment. Since the Department of Health and Hospitals (DHH) has primacy for the Safe Drinking Water Act, the grant funds were awarded to DHH. DHH has contracted DEQ to develop and implement the Source Water Assessment Program because of prior experience in the development and implementation of the Wellhead Protection Program.
5. When will the project information be available on the Internet and in Consumer Confidence Reports?
We plan to post the information quarterly as systems are completed. It can be a function of how much information is being posted by DEQ at each time interval. The Consumer Confidence Reports will be sent to consumers each year beginning in 1999 and any systems completed in that time frame will be included in the report.
6. How is a "closed" body of water like Bayou Desiard safe as a drinking water source?
There is very slow movement of water in and out of Bayou Desiard. It is remarkably clean considering it runs through the middle of town. The City of Monroe has a contract with a lab to monitor the bayou and a complete toxicity screen is run on the sediments and the water annually. The water system also treats the water to EPA Drinking Water Standards.
7. What resource do we have for checking the quality of water in our lakes where there are residents living around them? Many wastewater treatment systems are malfunctioning and there is always application of pesticides and fertilizers.
DEQ has an ambient monitoring program in place. Most of the major water bodies in the state are tested monthly. Next year the Ouachita Basin will be intensively sampled. Each subsegment will be sampled once a month and some 24-hour monitors will be set up. The project will continue for the whole year. For those who want to pursue some form of testing on their own test kits are available that are fairly inexpensive and easy to use. Cost increases with the number of contaminants tested for so it helps to have some idea of what you want to test for (i.e. a specific pesticide, bacteria, etc.)
8. If you live outside of the city limits is it outside of the scope of this study?
It's only outside of the scope if your home is served by a domestic (or private) well. The delineated protection area may not extend beyond the city limits depending on the location of the well(s) or intake(s) but anyone served by the water system is protected. The delineation is set up to protect the area surrounding the well(s) or intakes(s) or the area from where the source water is derived.
9. Are rural water systems included?
Yes, all public water supply systems are included. Public water supplies include community systems (such as municipalities and rural water districts), non-transient non-community systems (such as schools and factories), and transient non-community systems (such as campgrounds and roadside rest areas).
10. What safeguards do we have with bottled water? Is it any safer than tap water?
Currently, bottled water is regulated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the regulations are less stringent than the EPA standards set for public drinking water supplies. However, this is soon to change. Some "bottled water" on the market today is really nothing more than municipal tap water that has been filtered. There are many different labels on bottled water that may be confusing to the consumer. For example, "artisian water" is water drawn from a well tapping a confined aquifer. Many public water supply wells are also tapping confined aquifers and are therefore providing "artisian water". Many residents in cities supplied by artesian wells are buying "artisian" bottled water. It's a matter of public perception that bottled water is safer. However, many people buy bottled water simply because they do not like the taste, color, or smell of their tap water. Some tap water may contain naturally occurring minerals such as iron or manganese that can give the water a somewhat metallic taste or brown-black color. Some tap water contains small amounts of hydrogen sulfide gas that gives it a "rotten egg" smell. While the water is safe to drink, many people find it objectionable and use bottled water for drinking and cooking.
11. What is the role of the League of Women Voters in the program?
The League of Women Voters is active in the Source Water Assessment Program nationwide. They recently published a book, Strategies for Effective Public Involvement, to assist states with public participation in the Source Water Assessment Program. They assisted us in setting up and advertising our public meetings around the state. A member of the League also served on our Technical and Citizens Advisory Committee. The committee provided review of and input into the development of the program.
12. In the prioritization of wells, depth was mentioned as a factor. What is considered to be a "shallow" well?
A well that is 300 feet deep or less is considered "shallow" both in the Wellhead Protection Program and the Source Water Assessment Program. Wells 1000 feet deep or deeper are considered to be "deep" wells. Wells between 300 and 1000 feet deep are considered to be in the "intermediate" depth range.
13. Would any priority be given to wells that test positive for pesticides, herbicides, or any other contaminant? There are some in the Monroe area.
Yes, the program will be closely coordinated with DHH and any well testing positive for contaminants will be given priority.
14. Comment by member of DEQ field staff regarding pesticides:
A pesticide study was conducted several years ago in north Louisiana aquifers. Dozens of irrigation wells located in agricultural areas and ranging in depth from 40 feet to 400 feet were sampled. No traces of pesticides were found; not even old compounds such as DDT, in any of the wells sampled. This study demonstrates the remarkable ability of clays to protect lower aquifers.
15. What about pesticides coming down the Mississippi River from the Mid West? Are they seeping into our aquifers?
Both DEQ and United States Geological Survey (USGS) studies indicate that the biggest problem with the Mississippi River is Atrazine spikes that occur during high water levels in the spring. Atrazine is a widely used pesticide and is very persistent in the environment. Some intakes on the lower Mississippi River showed elevated Atrazine levels for short periods of time during these spikes. Shallow wells near the river have been sampled and no contamination was found. DEQ also has a Baseline Monitoring Project whereby a network of 180 wells are sampled around the state in all of the major aquifers. No significant contamination has been found as a result of this project.
16. Are there any residual problems from the Monroe Gas Field?
There are some localized problems, though they are not as common as they were even 10 years ago. Some mercury was spilled and was discovered in the early 90s. Some wells have leaked saltwater. There are no pits associated with the gas field anymore. The small, localized areas affected have not threatened our drinking water sources ? surface or ground.
17. Recently there was an article in the paper referring to Northeast Louisiana as "Cancer Alley". This is due to a large increase in the number of cancer cases in the area over recent years. Does anyone have any insight into this issue?
A DEQ field inspector with background in environmental toxicology addressed this concern. He researched the tumor registry in Northeast Louisiana and compared it with other locations in the nation. He also looked at a study conducted by the State of Louisiana several years ago. The data do not appear to support the recent press release claims. Some rates are higher, such as the incidence of lung cancer in black men, but these can be attributed to behavioral factors such as cigarette smoking. The data do not prove that there is a higher incidence of cancer in Northeast Louisiana than in a randomly chosen county in Iowa.
A comment by a member of the Health Department present at the meeting was that mortality rates are higher but that can be attributed to poverty levels. The poor are less likely to seek treatment at early enough stages to cure the disease. Also, while cigarette smoking is significant, Northeast Louisiana falls in the middle of the national average.
18. Is the scoring on the susceptibility analysis Louisiana-specific? Has any thought been given to standardizing it across the 50 states to obtain a much larger database for national comparisons?
The proposed methodology addresses site-specific issue in Louisiana. We researched the literature to aid us in the development of the methodology and several states are using similar methods. However, the EPA has left the development of the program up to each state to fit their unique situations (though all states must conform to the EPA guidance). Because of the differences in geology and hydrology (surface water) in each state, comparison on a nationwide basis would be very difficult.
19. Comment: Your staff should be commended for the fact that you've established a methodology unique to Louisiana's setting. Suggestion: You should write about it. There are probably many states that could learn and benefit from your work and all the different complexities you've considered.
Thank you, we appreciate your comments. We will be posting the written program document on the Internet in early February of 1999. We're also attending a meeting with EPA and the other Region 6 States (Arkansas, New Mexico, Oklahoma, and Texas) later this month. We will present our methodology at this meeting and hear theirs as well.
20. Who would come speak to local civic organizations such as the Kiwanis Club? We're always looking for speakers and this would be a great topic. (This question was asked by the president of the West Monroe Kiwanis Club.)
Contact Howard Fielding, Mary Gentry or Don Haydel. We would be glad to make a presentation. We would prefer to wait until after the early February submittal date of the program since we still have plenty of work to do to complete the document.
21. Will you be using volunteers in the program?
In larger communities such as West Monroe we will likely need some community volunteers to assist us with the inventory process. In small communities, we will likely work with the water department personnel. This is what we have done in the Wellhead Protection Program.
22. What did Jena do about the sites already there (like the abandoned gas station)?
Once their inventory was complete we reviewed it for any sites needing attention. The abandoned gas station was reported to the Underground Storage Tanks Division (UST) of DEQ for proper closure. In the process of closing the site, soil samples are collected from the area below the tanks and analyzed to determine if any contamination is present. If there is the site will be remediated. We also reported a couple of active gas stations that were not registered with the UST Division.
23. Why did the radius decrease between the 1986 law and the 1996 amendments?
As we discussed at the meeting, further research was conducted since the original Wellhead Protection Program was drafted. It was determined that the 2- mile radius was unnecessarily large and took too much time to inventory. Studies of ground water velocities in aquifers statewide support the use of the protection areas proposed for the Source Water Assessment Program. Even the 1- mile radius affords at least a 5 year time of travel from the edge of the protection area to the well. Studies also indicate that contaminants tend to break down over time and distance. The most critical area is 1000 feet or less from the well. In all cases of public water supply well contamination in the state, the source was within 1000 feet of the well. The revised radius sizes can also be inventoried in the very short time frame under which the program must be completed.
24. What about deep-well injections of toxins (like @ Sterlington Anhydrous Ammonia Plant)?
We have obtained the Class I (hazardous waste) Injection Well Inventory for the State of Louisiana. This database is maintained by the Department of Natural Resources, as they regulate such wells. The database will be incorporated into our Geographic Information System so that we can determine if any of these wells are located within source water protection areas. If any are found they will be included in the inventory. We have not had any drinking water contamination due to injection wells in the state.