Spring Creek Watershed Model Ordinance for Borehole and Well Drilling

Spring Creek Watershed Model Ordinance for Borehole and Well Drilling

Why This is Important

The Perfect Storm-

Earlier this year, the League of Women Voters sponsored a workshop entitled, "Why Our Ground Water Must be Protected Through Proper Construction of Residential Wells & Geothermal Heat Pump System Boreholes."  According to one of the presenters, Dr. Todd Giddings, a "Perfect Storm" is brewing that will result in many more geothermal systems being installed, and consequently more boreholes into the aquifer.  This storm is starting because:

  • The federal government is providing a tax credit for 30% of the cost of installing geothermal systems.
  • Fuel costs are high and expected to increase.
  • The State has a $42 million grant to encourage geothermal systems.

 

Within the Spring Creek Watershed, ground water supplies 99% of the public and private water use.  Unregulated wells and boreholes pose a potential hazard to the quality of our groundwater because improper construction can provide short-circuit pathways for surface and subsurface contaminants to enter the aquifer.

No Existing Regulations-

 

Currently, there are no federal regulations regarding well construction and/or siting.  As a result, many states have taken on this role.  However, Pennsylvania is one of only two states in the country with no state-wide regulations for the proper construction of most wells or boreholes, despite the fact that more than one million households in Pennsylvania rely on a private well for drinking water.

 

What Can We Do?

 

Spring Creek Watershed Work Group-

 

Because there are no federal or state regulations regarding the proper construction of most wells or boreholes, the Spring Creek Watershed Commission directed the Spring Creek Watershed Association to develop a model well and borehole ordinance for the municipalities within the Spring Creek Watershed.  The goals of the work group were to:

 

  • protect the quality of the ground-water resources of the Spring Creek Watershed
  • establish standards for the proper sealing of wells and boreholes
  • assure consistency among all the municipalities within the watershed for well and borehole construction

Who is the Spring Creek Watershed Work Group?

The Spring Creek Watershed Commission/Association Work Group is comprised of several local experts in hydrogeology, as well as a geothermal well driller and municipal staff.  Members include:

  • Todd Giddings, President, Todd Giddings & Associates
  • Mark Ralston, Converse Consultants Hydrogeologist
  • Chris Exarchos, President, GeoEnergy, Inc.
  • Richard Parizek, PSU Professor of GeoScience & GeoEnvironmental Engineering
  • Amy Story, Engineer State College Borough Engineer
  • Walt Schneider, Centre Region Code Agency Director
  • D. J. Liggett, Centre Regional Planning Agency

 

A Model Ordinance-

 

The Spring Creek Watershed Work Group held six meetings and used the Pennsylvania State Association of Township Supervisors' model ordinance to prepare regulations on the proper construction of wells and geothermal boreholes for the municipalities within the Spring Creek Watershed.

The model ordinance applies to the construction, modification, alteration, termination, and abandonment of all unregulated wells and boreholes that penetrate more than 20 feet below grade.  Existing wells and normal routine maintenance and minor repairs to keep a well or borehole in good working order are exempt from the regulations.

Role of the Local Municipalities-

 

Two versions of the draft well and borehole regulations have been prepared for local municipalities to consider.  One draft {click here - Generic PMC} can be used in conjunction with the Property Maintenance Code implemented by municipalities with in-house code inspection services.  A second draft {click here - Ordinance} can be adopted as a stand-alone ordinance by those municipalities that do not have a Property Maintenance Code in effect.  For Municipalities that want to consider a water quality testing section within the ordinance, consider the following language:

Water Quality Testing: A water supply test will be provided for each lot prior to occupancy. The developer shall include the results of water quality analyses by a Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection certified laboratory for total coliform bacteria, E. Coli, nitrate nitrogen, total dissolved solids, sulfate, pH and iron in accordance with the recommendations of PSU Cooperative Extension Water Testing Factsheet F104 (Addendum I), or its equivalent. If the water quality analytical result does not meet the Safe Drinking Water Act Maximum Contaminant Level for any parameter, the application for Zoning Permit shall indicate how the defect in water quality is to be addressed. One (1) copy of the Water Quality Analysis will be provided to the owner and 1 copy to the Township.

Municipalities within the Centre Region can include the regulation as Chapter 10 of their existing Property Maintenance Code {click here - CR -PMC}.

 

Resources

 

The members of the Spring Creek Watershed Work Group have offered to assist the municipalities with review and adoption of the model ordinance.  If you have questions or comments about the documents, please feel free to contact Amy Story at 814-278-4717 or at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. for assistance.