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Drinking Water in New England

Martha's Vineyard FR

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Michael Hill • (617) 918-1398

(Cite as: 53 FR 3451)

NOTICES

ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION AGENCY

[FRL-3324-5]

Sole Source Aquifer Designation for the Aquifer System of Martha's Vineyard, MA

Friday, February 5, 1988

*3451 AGENCY: Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

ACTION: Notice.

SUMMARY: In response to a petition from the Martha's Vineyard Commission, notice is hereby given that the Regional Administrator, Region I, of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has determined that the Martha's Vineyard Regional Aquifer satisfies all determination criteria for designation as a Sole Source Aquifer, pursuant to section 1424(e) of the Safe Drinking Water Act. Satisfying the designation criteria resulted in the following findings: the Martha's Vineyard Regional Aquifer is the sole source of drinking water for the Island's residents and visitors; there are no viable alternative sources of sufficient supply; 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 and a serious financial burden to the Island's residents. As a result of this action, all Federal financially assisted projects proposed for construction on Martha's Vineyard will be subject to EPA review to ensure that these projects are designed and constructed such that they do not bring about, or in any way contribute to, conditions creating a significant hazard to public health.

DATES: This determination shall be promulgated for purposes of judicial review at 1:00 p.m. Eastern time two weeks after the date of publication in the Federal Register.

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, John F. Kennedy Federal Building, Water Management Division, WGP-2113, Boston, MA 02203. The designation petition submitted may also be inspected during normal business hours at the Martha's Vineyard Commission office in Oak Bluffs or at the Public Library in Edgartown, MA 02557.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Robert E. Adler, Groundwater Management Section, EPA Region I, John F. Kennedy Federal Building, WGP-2113, Boston MA 02203, (617) 565-3601.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION:

I. Background

Section 1424(e) of the Safe Drinking Water Act (42 U.S.C. 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, shall publish notice of that determination in the Federal Register. After 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 significant 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 June 16, 1987, EPA received a petition from Martha's Vineyard Commission (MVC) requesting designation of the Martha's Vineyard Regional Aquifer as a sole source aquifer. EPA determined that the petition, after receipt and review of additional requested information from the MVC on August 28, 1987, fully satisfied the Completeness Determination Checklist. A public hearing was then scheduled and held on September 23, 1987, on Martha's Vineyard, in accordance with all applicable notification and procedural requirements. Unanimously favorable comments were received during the 30-day public comment period.

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 aquifer, its recharge area and streamflow source area(s), the project designation area, and the project review 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 Marth's Vineyard as a sole source aquifer:

  1. The Martha's Vineyard Regional Aquifer is the sole source of drinking water to all of the residents of, and visitors to, the Island of Martha's Vineyard.
  2. There exists no reasonable alternative drinking water source or combination of sources of sufficient quantity to supply the designated service area, nor is there any cost-effective future source or combination of future sources available to serve Martha's Vineyard due to its physical separation from the mainland.
  3. EPA has found that the MVC has appropriately delineated the boundaries of the aquifer recharge area, project designation area and project review area.
  4. Although the quality of the Island's ground water is rated as good to excellent (refer to Appendix D of Petition), it is highly vulnerable to contamination due to the Island's geological characteristics and land-use patterns. The silica sands of the outwash plain, comprising the dominant medium through which percolating precipitation infiltrates in the primary recharge area, are of particular concern due to their low cation exchange capacity, low organic content and high permeability. For these reasons, 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. Already in the past four years, there have been three separate instances of contamination of sources of drinking water on Martha's Vineyard: the Up-Island Gasoline Station spill in Tisbury; the Barnes Road leak from an abandoned underground storage tank in Oak Bluffs; and the precautionary closing of the Machaket well due to a leak from an above- ground heating fuel tank at the Edgartown Water Company. Since all Island residents and visitor trade are dependent upon the aquifer for their drinking water, a serious contamination incident could pose a significant public health hazard and place a severe financial burden on the Island's residents.

III. Description of the Martha's Vineyard Regional Aquifer System, Designated Area and Project Review Area

Due to its geologic characteristics and the fact that it is an oceanic island, the entire land area of Martha's Vineyard constitutes the recharge area to the island's aquifer system. The island consists of two distinct geologic deposits: the terminal moraines (Gay Head Moraine and Martha's Vineyard Moraine), and the outwash plain. The terminal moraines occupy approximately 40% of the Island's land area and are composed of a variety of soils with perched water tables, springs and brooks. The outwash plain comprises the primary recharge area and consists of layered sands and silts in one continuous, unconfined aquifer and it encompasses the remaining 60% of the Island. Thus, the designated area is coterminous with the entire land area of the Island (including Chappaquiddick) landward of mean low tide. This area is also fully coincident with the proposed project review area, in which federal financially assisted projects will be subject to review to determine if, by contaminating the aquifer, they pose a significant hazard to public health.

IV. Information Utilized in Determination

The information utilized in this determination included the Martha's Vineyard Commission's petition, which included field analyses and technical hydrogeologic maps in the petition's appendices, U.S. Geological Survey's hydrologic map, and written and verbal comments submitted by the public. These materials are available to the public and may be inspected during normal business hours at the addresses listed previously.

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 for projects which could contaminate the Martha's Vineyard Regional Aquifer. EPA will evaluate such projects and, where necessary, conduct an in-depth review, including soliciting public comments where 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 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 mechanisms. Although the project review process cannot be delegated, EPA will rely to the maximum extent possible on any existing or future state and/or local control mechanisms to protect the quality of ground water in the Martha's Vineyard Regional Aquifer.

VI. Summary and Discussion of Public Comments

None of the issues expressed during the public comment period developed into controversial issues. All of the mail received during the public comment period was unanimously in favor of the Island's designation as a sole source aquifer. The comments and questions raised at the public hearing were primarily attributable to unfamiliarity among Island residents with the implications of such a designation. Information was sought concerning the following general questions: (1) What types of land development projects would fall under Federal review, (2) would FHA-supported mortgages for private homes be subject to review, and (3) would Federal review jurisdiction be applied to state financed or constructed projects In general, all the comments favored designation.

Michael R. Deland,

Regional Administrator.

[FR Doc. 88-2448 Filed 2-4-88; 8:45 am]

BILLING CODE 6560-50-M

53 FR 3451-01, 1988 WL 276476 (F.R.)

END OF DOCUMENT

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