Jake Moore, working out of the state Department of Environmental Protection's Meadville office, gave a report Tuesday morning on the source water protection technical assistance program [SWPTAP] during an Elk County Board of Commissioners meeting.
Local source water protection [SWP] programs are community-based voluntary efforts to protect drinking water sources used by community water systems. Local SWP programs are effective tools for public health protection, water supply security and managing operational and capital costs through improved or maintained source water quality.
"[SWPTAP] can help develop and establish local SWP programs," Moore said.
DEP has secured the services of a contractor to provide technical expertise and assistance to interested community water systems for the development of local SWP programs.
"We have an engineer come in and do the necessary steps, find where the water comes from and how it travels," Moore said. "For groundwater, the travel is a lot slower."
SWP programs can involve wellhead and protection for groundwater sources, watershed protection for surface water sources, or both for systems using both groundwater and surface water.
Community water systems receiving services through the SWPTAP must establish local SWP programs through a steering committee that will develop a source water protection plan detailing a program that meets DEP's minimum elements, including source water protection area delineation; contaminant source inventory; source water protection area management methods and commitment; contingency planning; and protection of identified new source sites.
"[Elk County Community and Economic Development Coordinator] Jodi Foster and [Elk County Watershed Specialist] Kim Bonfardine have been excellent in helping with the steering committee, and we're been trying to get a wide, diverse group from the local area for input in the plan," Moore said. "That's what we need when prioritizing the potential sources for contamination. Jodi Foster for Elk County Planning has been doing an awesome job of keeping everything in line from the planning standpoint, and zoning as well.
"Breaking it down even further, Ridgway has a surface water intake from the Allegheny National Forest, and we actually finished their plan last December, and it finally got approved and printed in March. They recently wrote a grant through the Water Resource Education Network and acquired a small grant to do interpretive signage at the [H.B. Norton] Dam."
Source water protection plans should include a strategy addressing both existing sources of contamination and potential sources of future contamination identified in the source water assessment. According to Moore, the strategy can include the use of other funding sources and existing grants.