Howard Lake-Waverly Herald, January 11, 1999

Waverly to develop wellhead protection plan

The City of Waverly is developing a wellhead protection plan in order to protect the groundwater which supplies the needs of its community.

One of the goals of this plan is to increase residents' awareness about the vulnerability of Waverly's groundwater to contamination. It is important that residents recognize that they can have a direct influence on the quality of the groundwater which Waverly uses.

What is wellhead protection?

Wellhead protection is, simply stated, protecting the land area surrounding a well in order to prevent contamination of the groundwater that is likely to be drawn into the well during pumping Wellhead protection plans have been developed for several communities around Minnesota, and in over 30 states nationwide. Waverly is unique because it is one of the first towns in Minnesota to formulate such a plan.

These plans are encouraged by agencies such as the Minnesota Department of Health, Department of Natural Resources, Pollution Control Agency and the Wright County Water Planning Advisory Board. These agencies are responsible for setting safe drinking water standards and for protecting natural resources, such as groundwater.

Many people think of groundwater as an underground river or lake, but actually it occurs wherever water fills the tiny spaces in between grains of any earth materials (rock or soil). Earth materials that can transmit large quantities of water through these "pore" spaces are called aquifers. Sand and gravel typically are good aquifers, while materials such as clay and shale (a type of rock) are not.

Groundwater occurs beneath the land surface in Minnesota. In many places, it lies just a few feet underground However, in some aquifers the groundwater lies several hundred feet beneath the surface.

Groundwater usually begins as rain and melted snow which falls across the land and then seeps into the ground. Because this water was once at the surface, human activities can affect the quality of the groundwater. We need to be aware that the things we do at the earth's surface can affect the quality of the water we cook with, wash with, and of course, drink.

Why protect groundwater?

First of all, polluted groundwater can pose health hazards to those who drink it. Second, once it is contaminated, groundwater is very difficult to clean, if it can be cleaned at all. If the groundwater near Waverly were to become contaminated, the city would likely be required to install filters to purify the water, or be forced to find an alternative source of water for its citizens. This can be very expensive.

When it comes to protecting groundwater, the old saying "an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure," applies. Fortunately, the city wells of Waverly do not have a contamination problem at this point. The wellhead protection plan will address potential contamination sources in the wellhead area and help assure that Waverly maintains the quality of its groundwater.

How you can help

  • Inform the water department of any potential contamination sources (see list below). Be sure to indicate the type and location of each source
  • Have abandoned water wells properly capped and sealed.
  • Conserve water: Some contaminants are naturally degraded within soils. The less groundwater you use, the longer it stays in the ground, and the greater chance that it can clean itself.
  • Be aware that your activities at the land surface can have a direct effect on the water you use every day.

Some potential contaminant sources are: past spills or leaks, car washes, dry cleaners, vehicle repair or salvage operations, landfills or dump sites.

You can help Waverly protect its water supply by supporting the wellhead protection plan. A wellhead protection planning team is currently addressing issues that relate to the quality of the city's water supplies. You are invited to participate in the discussions and provide input to the planning team members at any of its public meetings.

The next meeting will be at city hall Tuesday, Jan. 12 at 3 p.m. For more information, contact John Rassat, water-wastewater supervisor at 612-658-4111.

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