The National Ground Water Association (NGWA) recently announced the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) has approved the NGWA to issue a new water well construction standard, ANSI/NGWA-01-14.

It’s the first third-party sanctioned standard ever issued by the NGWA, laying out baseline performance criteria for water well professionals seeking guidance for constructing residential, agricultural, monitoring, industrial and public supply wells.

The process started in 2008, involving many stakeholders and a robust review process focused on transparency and consensus. ANSI/NGWA-01-14 covers a number of different topics including site selection, casing, well screens, grouting, plumbness, well development, testing, data recording, disinfection, sampling and decommissioning.

Todd Hunter, a member of NGWA’s Standards Development Oversight Committee and an officer of the organization’s board, recently talked to National Driller about the process and what the standard means for water well system professionals.

Q. What goes into the process of creating a standard like this?

A. The ANSI process is long and arduous at best. The premise of an ANSI standard is that there is consensus in the document and there are procedures that are followed in the ways that consensus was reached.

The long and short of it is, you publish your intent to develop a standard with ANSI. At that point, anybody who has objections can raise their hand. Barring any objections, the standard moves forward. At that point, we say what the standard looks like and how we’re going to develop it — these are the topics that we’re going to cover, here are our stakeholders, here’s how it looks at the end of the day.

The ANSI process itself requires openness and transparency. It requires consensus. I would never have imagined that you could put so many diverse individuals in the same room and have them reach consensus on anything, let alone bring forward a document as strong as this one.

Q. How many different people provided input into the standard?

A. At any given time, there were probably between 30 and 50 people. And then you throw in the public comment period. I don’t remember exactly how many public commenters there were, but I want to say there were 11 pages of comments.

At that point, we were required by our own procedures and ANSI’s to address each of those individual public comments, deeming each one meritorious or already discussed. At the end of the day, it created a better document.

Q. What was the motivation for getting the standard approved?

A. The National Ground Water Association is tasked with protecting the groundwater resource. That’s one of our primary areas of focus. This document tells the industry at large that if you follow these procedures, if you take the document’s premise to heart — virtually anywhere in the world — you can construct a high-quality water well in the process.

Q. Do you know of any other independently sanctioned well construction standards?

A. AWWA A100 was actually started early on. The National Water Well Association at that time and AWWA [The American Water Works Association] struck out together to build that document, which has been in play for a number of years. It doesn’t necessarily have the same scope that ours does. AWWA A100 is more of a technical standard, whereas ours is a performance standard.

Q. How will the new standard help water well professionals?

A. I would hope that regulators take a look at the new standard — and I believe there is already a fair amount of interest — and understand who brought it to the table. We’re the National Ground Water Association; we’re the industry leaders in the protection of groundwater. We certainly understand it; it’s what we do and we’ve got many, many years of doing exactly that.

I would think regulators are going to take a good hard look at what they have versus what we’ve brought forward. And I would hope we see more congruity throughout the regulatory process at a national or international level. I would hope our efforts and regulators’ efforts will help everyone build a better product for customers.

It’s an additional layer of protection. It’s not necessarily a tool that will be used by regulators, but it certainly is a tool that can be used by regulators.

Q. So do you think it will be primarily certified water well professionals who use it as a guidance document?

A. I think everyone in the industry can draw on this document for performance expertise. The verbiage we used was that professional judgment shall be used. So it puts it to the individual to say, “Here’s something we understand regionally or locally.” Who better to know what goes on in New York City or New Mexico or Arizona? Each individual operator in their own area certainly knows ways to achieve these results.

So by saying professional judgment shall be used, we weren’t trying to issue specific guidance for particular components that could be very diverse across the nation.

Q. How does a performance-based standard like this work?

A. Obviously, we want the well to be safe and plumb, but how do you do that? We don’t get into a lot of detail about how you do it, but we do define the tools. We define what you want to see for an end result and how you would measure that. If you read it for what it is, the standard does provide for a very good product across diverse areas.

Q. In what area of performance do you think the standard will have the biggest impact?

A. The biggest impact in my mind is from a grouting perspective. This is my opinion, of course, but a lot of states haven’t identified grouting to the level I feel it should be. I believe

if a well is properly grouted, whenever it’s drilled into a confining unit, for instance, that the confining unit will be properly addressed and sealed accordingly. I believe that’s where this particular standard will do the most good.

Q. How does the standard relate to the NGWA’s various professional certifications?

A. I think the long-term goal is to bring more of those certifications in line with this particular standard and vice versa. The ANSI standard, once it’s put into place, becomes a living document, so it will be added to or subtracted from. It will change with time, and we may learn things in the next 30 years that we didn’t know before. The review process will bring forward a better document.

By and large, I think the certifications are in line with the standard, but I think we can add clarity from both sides. In other words, the certification may add some clarity to those specific areas that we didn’t directly identify, and likewise, the standard may add clarity to the certification process with regard to what kinds of questions are asked in the future, as to how best to do what we do.

Q. Are there any other big picture impacts you think the new standard will have?

A. I believe that it gives the industry as a whole a tool that will allow the regulators, the designers, the engineers and the contractors common ground. In other words, if we say here’s how we’re going to construct a water well using this particular document, we’re going to understand that regionally there are subtle changes that may not apply.

So it opens the same door for everyone. I think the regulators will take certain parts of it and realize, “Maybe we should be doing this in our own state.” I think water well contractors may in fact do the same thing, thinking, “I never really considered doing it that way, but it makes good sense.” So I would see it as building the community as a whole, giving them a stronger tool to provide for the resource.

Q. Does it give water well professionals a competitive advantage to be able to say all of their wells are built in alignment with the new ANSI standard?

A. It certainly does. And as you well know, becoming an NGWA-certified contractor brings more to the table than an individual who hasn’t necessarily taken it upon himself to become certified. So I believe this is just one more area of expertise that we can draw on to provide a better product for consumers.