Managing Potential Sources of Contamination
The overall goal of Cottage Grove's Wellhead Protection Plan is maintain a clean and abundant supply of water for its residents. One method to achieve this is to educate residents of the importance of protecting the community's water supply.
As part of the Part 2 Wellhead Protection Plan, parcels of land with large quantities of potentially hazardous contamination sources were identified. An example is a business with a storage tank containing gasoline, such as a local gas station, or a business that generates hazardous wastes. Cottage Grove plans on surveying these properties and providing educational materials to these land owners to help ensure that any hazardous substances are properly stored and handled.
Wellhead protection is not just limited to these types of properties, however. All residents should be aware of substances or structures on their properties that may adversely impact the aquifer. The following is a list of some items that homeowners should be aware of:
While the wellhead protection program is only required for public water supply wells, individual residential wells are one item that can potentially transmit contamination to the aquifer. If a residential well is poorly constructed, not maintained, or improperly abandoned, that well becomes a potential avenue for contamination to enter the aquifer. All homeowners with their own wells are encouraged to monitor the health of their own well through water quality sampling.
While the City of Cottage Grove does not have the resources to test each residential well for contaminants, the process is relatively inexpensive for property owners and is highly recommended. More information about private well testing is available from the Minnesota Department of Health: http://www.health.state.mn.us/divs/eh/wells/waterquality/test.html
Washington County also has information about well testing and can provide names of a local licensed well contractor: http://www.co.washington.mn.us/index.aspx?NID=637
Additionally, Minnesota Well Code states that any private well that is no longer used must either have a permit to be maintained or must be abandoned (sealed) by a licensed well contractor. If your property has a well that is no longer active, the well may be in violation of Minnesota Well Code and may need to be sealed. More information about well sealing is available at: http://www.health.state.mn.us/divs/eh/wells/sealing/index.html
In cases where the property owner has difficulty paying the costs of well sealing, some counties have cost sharing programs to help reduce the financial burden on the well owner. In February 2005, Washington County initiated a cost sharing program to assist well owners in sealing wells. The cost sharing reimburses up to 50 percent of the well sealing cost. Certain criteria must be met to be eligible for financial assistance.
More information about Washington County's well sealing cost sharing is available at: http://www.co.washington.mn.us/index.aspx?nid=640
Class V Injection Wells
These wells are not "wells" in the common perception of the term, but instead are a class of shallow disposal systems that aid in the infiltration of water directly into the soil. The most common type of Class V injection well is an open bottom drain that is sometimes found in automotive garages and repair facilities. If the drain is not connected to the City's sewer system, it is most likely considered a Class V injection well. These wells are of concern, since they may allow contaminated fluids from automobiles (or other sources) to enter into the groundwater.
Certain types of Class V injection wells have been outlawed in recent years. To determine if your property contains a Class V injection well, please visit this site to learn more about these wells:
Class V injection wells are managed by the US EPA. If your property contains a Class V injection well that is determined to no longer be in compliance with federal rules, it is the responsibility of the property owner to bring the structure back into compliance with the EPA. This can be done through conversion of the well to an acceptable design or removal of the well altogether. Contact the US EPA for more information at their Safe Drinking Water Hotline: 1-800-426-2791.
Individual Sewage Treatment Systems (aka Septic Systems)
Septic systems, if improperly constructed or poorly maintained, can be a source for contamination to the groundwater. As such, regular maintenance and inspection of septic systems is highly recommended to prevent them from becoming a source of contamination. More information about septic systems is available from Washington County Public Health and Environment at: http://www.co.washington.mn.us/index.aspx?nid=618
Household Hazardous Wastes
The average home contains a wide variety of chemicals that can, over time, have an adverse impact to the groundwater if improperly stored or disposed. Examples of common household hazardous wastes include (but are not limited to): Pesticides, Herbicides, Solvents, Cleaners, Pool Chemicals, Septic System Chemicals, Paint, Gasoline, Waste Oil, and Batteries. More information about identifying, storing, and disposing of household hazardous waste is available from Washington County at: http://www.co.washington.mn.us/index.aspx?nid=621
Currently, the City of Cottage Grove participates with Washington County's efforts to collect unwanted household hazardous wastes. More information about hazardous waste collection is available at: http://www.co.washington.mn.us/index.aspx?nid=1942
Cottage Grove also collects waste oil at its Public Works facility.
Lawn Chemicals and Fertilizers
Improper use and over-application of certain lawn chemicals and fertilizers can lead to a degradation of groundwater quality. Excess fertilizer nutrients that are not absorbed by plant life can either infiltrate to groundwater or can run off during rain or snowmelt events, degrading stormwater quality. Stormwater either infiltrates to the groundwater or runs off to local bodies of water, such as the Mississippi River. In either case, the impact to water quality from nitrates runoff is undesirable.
Homeowners are therefore encouraged to closely follow instructions on lawn chemicals and fertilizers to ensure that proper application rates are maintained.
Information on lawn fertilization can be obtained from the University of Minnesota Extension Service at: www.extension.umn.edu/