Hazardous materials measure advances

By Burk Krohe

City commissioners favored moving forward with steps to regulate drilling and storage of hazardous materials in the city’s wellfields Tuesday.

Robert Pugh, assistant director of public works, utilities, said it’s an effort to prevent contamination of the city’s 20 wells located among three wellfields. One wellfield is in northern Manhattan, while the other two are in eastern portions of the city and county near the Big Blue River.

According to the Safe Drinking Water Act, each state is required to develop a “wellhead protection program” to defend groundwater from contamination. Since 1999, Manhattan has taken several measures to protect the quality of its source water. Pugh said the city contracted with consultants who outlined a program to protect the wellfield with six components, four of which the city has already implemented.

Pugh said the city has collected data from the wellfields, identifying potential contaminants. The city used the data to develop a wellhead protection area map. The map identifies “capture zones,” areas that, if contamination occurs would take about the time delineated by the map (180-days, one year or ten years) to travel to the city’s wellfield via an underground water source.

The city also established a monitoring program. Pugh said the city monitors the impacts of changes in pumping, groundwater flow and well levels in the wellhead protection area. The city also takes quarterly samples to test for contaminants.

The city actively pursues an education program as well. Additionally, Pugh said the city is also working with residents and businesses adjacent to the wellfields. Pugh said last year a luncheon was held to discuss best management practices to avoid pollution and contamination in those areas. He said the city plans on continuing the practice.

In order to continue progress, Pugh recommended a joint ordinance with Riley County and Pottawatomie County to regulate drilling activities, provide a buffer zone for proper storage and containment of hazardous materials, particularly the underground storage of fuel tanks, and provide buffer zones for construction in the wellfields. The joint ordinance would be necessary because not all city wells are contained in city limits or the same county.

The ordinance would require a permitting program for anyone wishing to construct a well within the wellhead protection area map.

It would ensure that wells are designed and constructed properly in order to seal the aquifer from contamination. The ordinance would also limit how close to city wells entities may store hazardous materials.

Commissioners felt pursuing the ordinance would be wise.

“I would certainly be in favor of going ahead with that,” Commissioner Jim Sherow said. “It’s only prudent; it ensures the safety of our water system.”

Commissioner John Matta agreed with Sherow, saying it would be prudent and in the interest of public safety.

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