Officials updated on water plan

Jodi Foster, community and economic development coordinator for the Elk County Planning Department, gave an update Tuesday morning at a board of commissioners meeting regarding the status of a source water protection plan impacting various municipalities in Elk County."Last week, I had a meeting with several representatives in the different municipalities to talk to them about preparing a source water protection plan," Foster said. "The meeting went very well and we had two gentlemen from the DEP [Department of Environmental Protection] there to discuss how the plan would work with the municipal representatives. "Basically, I didn't really know a whole lot about this so the meeting was good for me to get a better idea of how these source water protection plans work."Basic points of the plan concern a municipal water authority identifying hazards around its water supply and taking steps to protect that water supply. "DEP has explained it and there are different zones around a water supply," Foster said. "There are different ways for those to be contaminated as well. "For instance, let's assume that the Ridgway reservoir ran along a major highway and an oil truck came by and spilled. One of the zones that DEP identifies is a five-hour contamination time. So from the time that that truck has an oil spill, it would take five hours for that contaminant to get into the water supply. "These are the types of hazards that this source water protection plan will identify and that zone goes out for 10, 15, 20 years, so it's possible that something could be contaminated after an event 10 or 15 years away, you also take steps to prevent that from happening. Another example officials used involved a gas station close to a water supply."Say [the station] is three miles away [from a water supply] that has underground [fuel] storage tanks, and they begin to leak," Foster said. "How long will it take for that underground leak to get to your water supply? "That's basically what this plan does, identify hazards to the water supply."The costs associated with a source water protection plan can range from $40,000 to $50,000; however, the DEP has been paid for this by the federal Environmental Protection Agency [EPA].