Wednesday, February 7, 2018

It's Water-Wise Wednesdays with Frannie the Fish! {Wellhead Protection: Potential Contaminant Sources}

This is Part 3 in Frannie's exploration of Wellhead Protection.   Read Part 1 and Part 2 and look for more blogs to learn more about what it is, who protects the wellheads, and why it's important.

Frannie has survived this frigid weather with warm tea, a cozy blanket, and summaries from previous meetings of the Nebraska Wellhead Protection Network and she wanted to go back to the idea of taking an inventory of potential groundwater contamination sources.
In some areas, it might be easy to pick out potential contaminant sources, such as farms that use pesticides and fertilizers as well as landfills.  But some, like these three, may be less obvious.

1) Road Salt Storing and Use.  It snowed a lot this winter and the roads have been slick and icy.  To help melt the ice, hard-working snow plow drivers spread salt.  Maybe you or your family have even put some road salt on your sidewalks or driveways. Being ready for these icy winter conditions takes a lot of preparation and so all of that salt has to be stored somewhere dry to keep it from leaching into the groundwater. We need the road salt to keep the streets safe to travel on, but we need to take care to use it only when we need it and otherwise keep it stored safely away.

2) Septic tanks and drainfields.  If you are not connected to your city’s sewer system, then you might be using a septic system/drainfield layout. Septic systems treat the sewage waste that come from a home and a drain field is a network of perforated pipes laid in gravel beds.  After the solids settle in the septic tank, the liquids are released to the drainfield where they pass through the pipes and are filtered by the gravel and soil.  Human waste is a pretty dangerous contaminant and so this source must be carefully observed.

3) Mines, pits, and quarries.  Yes, holes in the ground are a potential contaminant source. Any kind of extraction or industrial operation will be using some chemicals to operate and maintain their equipment that, in normal conditions, might be considered safe.  However, in a pit or quarry or mine, many of the geological layers that normally filter runoff and groundwater are removed.  These sites are especially vulnerable and need to be monitored.

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