Contaminated Drinking Water From Shallow Disposal Systems

Producer: U. S. Environmental Protection Agency. Public domain video. Contaminated Drinking Water From Shallow Disposal Systems. The Problem With ... Shallow Disposal Systems. EPA 816-C-04-004. The vast majority of Class V wells are shallow disposal systems. They are mostly septic systems, drywells, drain pipes and other devices or constructions used to dispose of fluids underground. These fluids can include wastewater, sanitary waste, stormwater, etc. Shallow onsite disposal systems are regulated by the Underground Injection Control (UIC) Program. These shallow disposal systems are also referred to as Class V wells. The kinds of shallow disposal systems or Class V wells commonly include drywells, cesspools, and septic systems with tanks and leach fields. Class V wells can also be deep injection wells, but they are very rare. More than 600,000 facilities across the United States use shallow on-site disposal systems. On-site disposal systems can provide a cost-effective means for industries, municipalities, and small businesses to dispose of their wastewater, if these systems are properly sited, constructed, and operated to protect our environment and prevent contamination of our underground drinking water resources. The uses for Class V wells (shallow disposal systems) vary widely. Some examples of Class V wells include: A gas station with a service floor drain that leads to a septic system. An apartment building with a septic system for sanitary waste disposal. A rest stop that uses a cesspool. A municipality where stormwater flows into drywells. A strip mall, with small businesses such as a photo processor and a dry cleaner, that discharge sanitary wastes mixed with process chemicals into a septic system. An office building that injects water passed through a heat exchanger to cool the building. A carwash where the waste water enters a floor drain that leads to a drywell or septic system. EPA established the UIC Program to develop minimum Federal requirements for States to regulate injection wells. These minimum requirements cover the siting, construction, operation, maintenance, monitoring, testing, and closure of injection wells. The goal of the UIC Program is to protect public health by preventing injection wells (including Class V wells) from contaminating Underground Sources of Drinking Water (USDWs). Fluids cannot be injected if they may cause a public water system to violate drinking water standards or otherwise adversely affect public health. All operational injection wells require authorization under general rules or specific permits. In 1999, EPA banned two types of Class V wells: motor vehicle waste disposal wells and large capacity cesspools. This video looks at the real life challenges and successes experienced by three different communities faced with polluted drinking water supplies and a totally unexpected source of contamination. Case Studies: Missoula, MT; Espanola, NM; Great Falls, VA. EPA's Underground Injection Control Program is responsible for ensuring that injection wells do not endanger underground sources of drinking water, public health and the environment. The reason for producing this video is to alert local leaders to a potential source of pollution which they often overlook -- shallow disposal systems. It only takes one such system to pollute an entire drinking water supply and threaten the economic health of a community. The video shows hot to identify and solve the problem. Ground water provides approximately 50 percent of the nation's drinking water. Seventy-five (75) percent of our cities derive all or part of their drinking water from underground sources, and rural America is 95 percent dependent upon ground water. It follows that underground sources of drinking water must be kept free of contamination. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is required by the Safe Drinking Water Act to protect the quality of these drinking water sources. To fulfill this responsibility, EPA is empowered to regulate the disposal (injection) of fluids by wells of all kinds. Under EPA's Underground Injection Control (UIC) regulations, an injection well can be thousands of feet deep or it can be as shallow as a discharge pit, dry well, cesspool, or septic system drain field. EPA's UIC programs have been in operation since 1983. Only since 1988, however, has EPA been able to turn its attention to the ground-water threat from shallow injection wells. EPA has banned the injection of hazardous wastes into these wells. Public domain video.