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Drinking Water in New England

Head of the Neponset FR

Updated Contact Information
Michael Hill • (617) 918-1398

(Cite as: 53 FR 49920)

NOTICES

ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION AGENCY

[FRL-3489-3]

Sole Source Aquifer Designation for the Head of the Neponset Aquifer Area, Massachusetts

Monday, December 12, 1988

*49920 AGENCY: U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

ACTION: Notice.

SUMMARY: In response to a petition from the Town of Walpole, Massachusetts, notice is hereby given that the Regional Administrator, Region I, of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has determined that the Head of the Neponset Aquifer (HNA) satisfies all determination criteria for designation as a sole source aquifer, pursuant to section 1424(e) of the Safe Drinking Water Act. The designation criteria include the following: The Head of the Neponset Aquifer area is the principal source of drinking water for the residents of that area; there are no viable alternative sources which can completely replace the drinking water supplied by the aquifer; the boundaries of the designated area and project review area have been reviewed and approved by EPA; and if contamination were to occur, it would pose a significant public health hazard to the area's residents. As a result of this action, all federal financially assisted projects proposed for construction or modification within the HNA area can be reviewed by EPA to reduce the risk of ground water contamination from these projects.

DATES: This determination shall be promulgated for purposes of judicial review at 1:00 p.m. Eastern time December 27, 1988.

ADDRESSES: The data upon which these findings are based are available to the public and may be inspected during normal business hours at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Region I, JFK Federal Building, Water Management Division, WGP-2113, Boston, MA 02203. The designation petition submitted may also be inspected at the Wapole Town Library in Walpole, Massachusetts.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Robert E. Mendoza, Chief of the Ground Water Management Section, EPA Region I, JFK Federal Building, WGP-2113, Boston, MA 02203, 617-565-3600.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION:

I. Background

Section 1424(e) of the Safe Drinking Water Act (42 U.S.C. 300f, 300h-3(e), Pub. L. 93-523) states:
If the Administrator determines, on his own initiative or upon petition, that an area has an aquifer which is the sole or principal drinking water source for the area and which, if contaminated, would create a significant hazard to public health, he shall publish notice of that determination in the Federal Register. After the publication of any such notice, no commitment for Federal financial assistance (through a grant, contract, loan guarantee, or otherwise) may be entered into for any project which the Administrator determines may contaminate such aquifer through a recharge zone so as to create a signficant hazard to public health, but a commitment for Federal financial assistance may, if authorized under another provision of law, be entered into to plan or design the project to assure that it will not so contaminate the aquifer.

On May 10, 1988, EPA received a petition from the Town of Walpole, Massachusetts requesting designation of the Head of the Neponset Aquifer area as a sole source aquifer. EPA determined that the petition, after receipt and review of additional requested information fully satisfied the Completeness Determination Checklist. A public hearing was then scheduled and held on September 8, 1988, in Walpole, Massachusetts, in accordance with all applicable notification and procedural requirements. A four week public comment period followed the hearing.

II. Basis for Determination

Among the factors considered by the Regional Administrator as part of the detailed review and technical verification process for designating an area under section 1424(e) were:

(1) Whether the aquifer is the sole or principal source (more than 50%) of drinking water for the defined aquifer service area, and that the volume of water from an alternative source is insufficient to replace the petitioned aquifer;
(2) whether contamination of the aquifer would create a significant hazard to public health; and
(3) whether the boundaries of the deisgnated area; the project review area; *49921 the aquifer service area; and the steamflow source area are appropriate. On the basis of technical information available to EPA at this time, the Regional Administrator has made the following findings in favor of designating the HNA area as a sole source aquifer:

  1. The HNA is the principal source of drinking water to the residents within the service area.
  2. There exists no reasonable alternative drinking water source or combination of sources of sufficient quantity to replace the amount supplied to the designated service area.
  3. EPA has found that the Town of Walpole has appropriately delineated the boundaries of the designated area, project review area, aquifer service area and streamflow source area.
  4. Although the quality of the area's ground water is rated as good to excellent, it is highly vulnerable to contamination due to the area's geological characteristics. Because of this, contaminants can be rapidly introduced into the aquifer system from a number of sources with minimal assimilation. This may include contamination from chemical spills, highway, urban and rural runoff, septic systems, leaking storage tanks, both above and underground, road salting operations, saltwater intrusion, and landfill leachate. Since more residents are dependent upon the aquifer for their drinking water, a serious contamination incident could pose a significant public health hazard to the service area's residents.

III. Description of the Head of the Neponset Aquifer Area, Aquifer Service Area, and Project Review Area

The HNA area covers over 30 square miles in eastern Massachusetts, south of Boston. It encompasses most of Walpole, and portions of Dover, Foxboro, Medfield, Norwood, Sharon, and Westwood. The area petitioned is the eastern portion of the Neponset River Watershed Basin. This area is the headwaters of the Neponset River; from here the river flows northward out of the basin and discharges into the Massachusetts Bay. The aquifer material consists of extensive deposits of stratified drift.
The designated area is defined as the surface area above the aquifer system and its recharge area. The northern, western, and southern boundaries of the area were delineated according to the USGS Hydrologic Investigations Atlas HA-484 (1973). The eastern boundary is based upon surface topography. This eastern boundary represents the surface water divide which separates those areas contributing to eastern portions of the Neponset Basin from those areas contributing to the western portion of the Basin. However, where the Neponset River flows out of the HNA area, the boundary was not based upon topography. Here the boundary was located at the border of the stratified drift and till deposits.

The project review area is defined as the area within which federal financially assisted projects can be reviewed by EPA. For the HNA, the boundary of the designated area coincides with the boundary of the project review area. This area includes the recharge area to the HNA. There is no separate streamflow source area.

The aquifer service area is the areal extent above the HNA and those lands where the entire population served by the aquifer live. For the HNA, this includes all of the towns of Foxboro, Medfield and Walpole, and portions of Dover, Norwood, Sharon and Westwood. Most residents of the service area depend on the ten public wells located in the HNA for their drinking water supply. There are also private wells located in the HNA. The population of the aquifer service area is 45,110 people. The petitioner determined that 68% of the drinking water for the aquifer service area is supplied by the HNA.

The petitioner also demonstrated that there were no reasonably available alternative sources of drinking water for the HNA area. Eight alternatives were investigated for this petition. Six of the alternatives were eliminated as possibilities for several reasons. The remaining alternative sources could potentially supply an amount that is significantly below the amount currently supplied by the HNA. There were no alternative sources that could completely replace the HNA.

IV. Information Utilized in Determination

The information utilized in this determination includes: The petition submitted to EPA Region I by the Town of Walpole; additional information requested from and supplied by the petitioner; written and verbal comments submitted by the public, and the technical papers and maps submitted with the petition. This information is available to the public and may be inspected at the address listed above.

V. Project Review

EPA Region I is working with the federal agencies most likely to provide financial assistance to projects in the project review area. Interagency procedures and Memoranda of Understanding have been developed through which EPA will be notified of proposed commitments by federal agencies to projects which could contaminate the HNA area. EPA will evaluate such projects and, where necessary, conduct an in-depth review, including soliciting public comments when appropriate. Should the Regional Administrator determine that a project may contaminate the aquifer through its recharge zone so as to create a significant hazard to public health, no commitment for federal financial assistance may be entered into. However, a commitment for federal financial assistance may, if authorized under another provision of law, be entered into to plan or design the project to ensure that it will not contaminate the aquifer. Included in the review of any federal financially assisted project will be the coordination with state and local agencies and the project's developers. Their comments will be given full consideration, and EPA's review will attempt to complement and support state and local ground water protection measures. Although the project review process cannot be delegated, EPA will rely to the maximum extent possible on any existing or future state or local control measures to protect the quality of ground water in the HNA area.

VI. Summary and Discussion of Public Comments

The maority of comments received from the public supported designation of the HNA as a sole source aquifer. Over twenty comments were received from the public. None of these comments expressed opposition to the designation. A few comments raised questions about the implications of the designation and the status of the petition review. These questions were all answered completely. Notable letters of support were received from federal and local governments, as well as from residents. Reasons given for support include the following: (1) The dependence of the residents on the HNA for their drinking water supply; (2) there are no reasonably available alternative sources that can replace the amount of drinking water supplied by the HNA; (3) the growth and development in the HNA area which threaten the continued purity of the resource; and (4) the hope that the HNA's designation as a sole source aquifer will heighten public awareness of the vulnerability of the resource, and encourage further protective efforts.

*49922 Date: November 30, 1988.

Michael R. Deland,

Regional Administrator.

[FR Doc. 88-28459 Filed 12-9-88; 8:45 am]

BILLING CODE 6560-50-M

53 FR 49920-01, 1988 WL 268924 (F.R.)

END OF DOCUMENT

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