Programs to protect drinking water sources must be based on sound scientific stuides.

Programs to protect drinking water sources must be based on sound science. An excellent example of this is Randolph Township, NJ, who recently completed the Alamatong Wellhead Protection Study.

The Alamatong is located in a highly productive aquifer in western Morris County. The results of the study allowed a team of individuals to identify several key elements in conservation and protection of the area's current and future drinking water supply. The purpose of the wellhead protection study stemmed from the view area residents held about the safety of their drinking water supply.

"....Without cooperation and initiative being taken at the local level, regional efforts to protect the resource could be easily jeopardized."

The Alamatong Wellhead Protection Study was initiated in 1991, when a group of citizens known as the Black River Coalition met to discuss issues pertaining to local water resources. As a result, a common goal was derived, "the need to protect the wellfield areas and the public water supply."

Christopher Hellwig of the Randolph Township Groundwater Guardian team observed, "Residents of a municipality or county often assume that something as basic as water will always be there, however, this is not necessarily the case. Planning to conserve this resource for our present use, but also for future generations must be a priority goal." This was the main purpose through which the wellhead protection plan was initiated.

At onset of the study, a technical group was formed to explore ways to protect local water resources. The team insured the study and numerous tasks involved with it were based on sound science and correct information, primarily by relying on information provided by the US Geological Society (USGS). Funding for the study was provided by the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection and Randolph Township provided project coordination.

The group identified groundwater flow patterns and their impact on recharge of the wellfield. USGS data on the aquifer system below Morris County proved a portion of the groundwater entering the aquifer system as recharge could reach existing wells within five-years. By identifying key recharge areas, researchers were able to analyze area land use practices and to develop strategies to preserve the quality of the Alamatong wellfield.

The analysis showed agriculture, barren soil, forests, water, wetlands, urban, industrial and residential land all need to be considered when setting priorities and identifying major groundwater contamination concerns. The study also gave special consideration to previous contamination sites that may have existing and/or unknown impacts on groundwater quality.

The information provided in the study allowed the team to develop a series of recommendations to protect the area's drinking water supply now and in the future. Some of the recommendations include: forming an inter-agency cooperative agreement among public agencies to promote protection of wellhead areas and amending and updating local master plans to reflect data and information obtained from the study. Other recommendations include: educating homeowners on pollution prevention; establishing a system of monitoring wells; and designing new standards for fuel and septic tanks.

For more information about the Alamatong Wellhead Protection Study, contact Christopher Hellwig at 973-989-7073.

Reprinted with permission of The Aquifer, by The Groundwater Foundation.