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Drinking Water in New England

Pawcatuck River FR

Updated Contact Information
RI - Robert Adler • (617) 918-1396
CT - Jeff Butensky • (617) 918-1665

(Cite as: 53 FR 17108)

NOTICES

ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION AGENCY

[FRL-3379-4]

Sole Source Aquifer Designation for the Pawcatuck Basin Aquifer System, Rhode Island and Connecticut

Friday, May 13, 1988

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

ACTION: Notice.

SUMMARY: In response to a petition from the Audubon Society of Rhode Island, notice is hereby given that the Regional Administrator, Region I, of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has determined that the Pawcatuck Basin Aquifer System 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 Pawcatuck Basin Aquifer System is the sole source of drinking water for the residents of that area; 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 area's residents. As a result of this action, all Federal financially assisted projects proposed for construction or modification within the Pawcatuck Basin will be subject to EPA review to reduce the risk of ground water contamination from these projects.

DATE: This determination shall be promulgated for purposes of judicial review at 1:00 p.m. Eastern time May 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 Langworthy Public Library in Hope Valley, Rhode Island.

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 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 November 30, 1987, EPA received a petition from the Audubon Society of Rhode Island requesting designation of the Pawcatuck Basin Aquifer System 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 March 3, 1988, in Wood River Junction, Rhode Island, 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 aquifer, its recharge area and streamflow source area, 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 the Pawcatuck Basin Aquifer System as a sole source aquifer:

  1. The Pawcatuck Basin Aquifer System is the sole source of drinking water to all of the residents within the service area.
  2. There exists no reasonable alternative drinking water source or combination of sources of sufficient quantity to supply the designated service area.
  3. EPA has found that the Audubon Society has appropriately delineated the boundaries of the aquifer recharge area, project designation area and project review area.
  4. Although the quality of the Basin's ground water is rated as good to excellent, it is highly vulnerable to contamination due to the Basin'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 all residents 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 service area's residents.

III. Description of the Pawcatuck Basin Aquifer System, Designated Area, and Project Review Area

The Pawcatuck Basin Aquifer System is a 295-square mile watershed located primarily in southwestern Rhode Island and partially in southeastern Connecticut. It encompasses part or all of ten towns in RI and portions of four towns in CT. It is comprised of ten hydrogeologically interconnected aquifers, nine in RI and one in CT. The aquifers consist of extensive deposits of stratified drift. They are generally located in the lowland areas of the basin. The recharge areas or highland portions of the basin consist of interfingered stratified drift and till deposits. Bedrock outcrops can also be found in these highland areas.

The designated area is defined as the surface area above the aquifer system and its recharge area. For the Pawcatuck Basin Aquifer System, the boundary of the designated area coincides with the boundary of the watershed basin. The watershed boundary is a surface water divide based on topography, which generally corresponds to the ground water divide. *17109 The recharge areas are usually comprised of bedrock and/or till which may be interfingered with stratified drift materials. The lowland areas where the aquifers are located, generally consist of stratified drift. Activities occurring in the upland areas can have a direct impact on the ground water quality of the aquifers.

The project review area is the same as the designated area boundary. The project review area includes the entire Pawcatuck Basin watershed.

IV. Information Utilized in Determination

The information utilized in this determination includes: the petition submitted to EPA Region I by the Audubon Society of Rhode Island; additional information requested from and supplied by the petitioners; 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 Pawcatuck Basin Aquifer System. 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 and/or local control measures to protect the quality of ground water in the Pawcatuck Basin Aquifer System.

VI. Summary and Discussion of Public Comments

The vast majority of comments received from the public supported designation of the Pawcatuck Basin Aquifer System as a sole source aquifer. Over seventy comments were received from the public; of these, only three expressed opposition to the designation.

One party raised questions about: (1) The availability of alternative sources of water supply for the Pawcatuck Basin and the information supplied in the petition; (2) the application of boundary definitions used in the petition; (3) the appropriateness of designating a whole watershed basin versus designating each aquifer separately; and (4) the possibility of overlap among Federal, State and local regulations. EPA has researched each of these issues and has found that the petition addresses them adequately.

Two other parties raised questions about alternative sources of water supply in Connecticut. Connecticut and Rhode Island identify their aquifers by different names. This created confusion about which aquifers had been researched by the petitioners. These misunderstandings have been resolved.

Notable letters of support were received from Federal, State and local governments, as well as letters from environmental organizations and residents. Reasons given for support include: (1) The total dependence of the residents on ground water for their drinking water supply; (2) the fact that there are no reasonably available alternative sources; (3) that growth and development in the Pawcatuck Basin threaten the continued purity of the resource; and (4) that the Pawcatuck Basin's designation as a sole source aquifer would heighten public awareness of the vulnerability of the resource, and would encourage further protective efforts.

Michael R. Deland,

Regional Administrator.

[FR Doc. 88-10722 Filed 5-12-88; 8:45 am]

BILLING CODE 6560-50-M

53 FR 17108-01, 1988 WL 269653 (F.R.)

END OF DOCUMENT

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