When Repairing a Public Water Supply Well, it’s Better to Ask for Permission than Beg for Forgiveness

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When Repairing a Public Water Supply Well, it’s Better to Ask for Permission than Beg for Forgiveness

By: Doug Hunter

Published in September 2019 Focus on the Environment Newsletter

Recently, we have heard of a couple different cases in Ohio where a public water system (PWS) found themselves the surprise recipient of a Notice of Violation (NOV) from the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency (Ohio EPA).    In each case, the PWS had hired a water well contractor to repair one of their production wells.  The repairs were relatively standard and upon completion the repaired well was returned to service.  All’s well that ends well, right?  Not quite.  During a subsequent sanitary survey/inspection of these water systems, Ohio EPA discovered the well repairs and promptly issued the PWS a NOV.  So why the NOV?  Unfortunately, neither the PWS nor the water well contractors were aware that the completed well repairs were subject to Ohio EPA plan approval.  In each NOV, the cause cited by Ohio EPA was that the repair was completed without submitting an application for plan approval to Ohio EPA as required by Ohio Administrative Code (OAC) Rule 3745-91-02 (A), that states:

 “No person shall begin construction or installation of a public water system or make a substantial change in a public water system, until plans therefor have been approved by the director of environmental protection.”

With regard to public water supply wells, OAC Rule 3745-9-01 (2) (Water Well Standards) states that a substantial change in construction or configuration of a public water system includes, without limitation:

“changing well pump design capacity; converting a well with a buried seal to a well with a pitless adapter or well house installation; converting a well that uses a well pit to a well with a pitless adapter or well house type of construction; deepening a well; installing a liner; or modifying, extending or replacing any portion of the casing or borehole.”

For a well repair project, the Ohio EPA application for plan approval is straightforward and would include a completed Water Supply Data Sheet, technical specifications, detailed plan drawings, and any supporting information.   In the cases noted above, the Ohio EPA allowed the PWS to address the NOV by submitting the required application for plan approval after the fact.  Unfortunately, in one of these cases, the Ohio EPA determined that the well repair was not in compliance with the OAC Water Well Standards and thus was not approvable as constructed.  Eventually, the PWS was issued conditional approval with the condition being that the PWS install a new replacement well and then permanently seal the repaired well, a project that that cost significantly more than the original well repair.  Had the PWS submitted the application for plan approval prior to repairing the well, Ohio EPA would have rejected the plan and the repair design could have been modified to conform with the OAC Water Well Standards and the repaired well would have been approved, without condition, for service.   The lesson learned is that before making any alterations to your water supply well, contact your Ohio EPA District Office to determine in advance if the proposed alteration requires prior plan approval from the agency.    

Doug is a licensed professional geologist in Indiana and North Carolina. As a consulting hydrogeologist, Doug specializes in aquifer characterization and yield determinations, well and wellfield performance evaluations, and the design and testing of both vertical well and horizontal collector well systems. Additional areas of expertise include environmental assessment and remedial system evaluation and design. He has worked throughout the United States on a wide variety of groundwater supply and environmental contamination related projects. Doug’s wide-ranging expertise and extensive experience in the groundwater supply industry add another dimension to Cox-Colvin’s technical staff and provide additional opportunity to support our clients in meeting their needs and reaching their business goals.