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Alaska Department of Transportation and Public Facilities to close contaminated wells, protect groundwater in EPA agreement

Release Date: 11/19/2013
Contact Information: Hanady Kader, EPA Public Affairs, 206-553-0454

Diagram of a motor vehicle waste disposal well(Seattle - Nov. 19, 2013) The Alaska Department of Transportation and Public Facilities and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency have reached an agreement to close 55 motor vehicle waste disposal wells across Alaska located at state vehicle repair and maintenance facilities. Some of the wells are located in state-designated groundwater protection areas and posed a risk to groundwater resources that communities use for drinking water.

"About 80 percent of Alaskans depend on groundwater for drinking water," said Ed Kowalski, Director of the EPA Compliance Office in Seattle. "Closing these outdated wells will help protect Alaska’s critical water resources from the metals and chemicals associated with vehicle maintenance."

ADOT&PF used the wells to dispose of storm water, snowmelt, and water used to wash vehicles. This wastewater may have contained antifreeze, brake fluid, waste petroleum and other vehicular wastes that have known harmful impacts to human health. During vehicle repair and maintenance, these fluids can drip on the floor and enter drains or sinks in service areas. If the drains or sinks are connected to a septic system, dry well or any underground disposal system, chemicals and metals may be entering soil or drinking water supplies.

The Safe Drinking Water Act requires EPA to regulate underground injection wells. The regulations banned motor vehicle waste disposal injection wells in 2000 and required closure of all existing wells due to their high potential to endanger underground sources of drinking water.

ADOT&PF has agreed to sample the 55 wells, remove contamination and permanently shut down the wells or convert them to alternate uses by 2018. ADOT&PF is working with the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation and the EPA to close the wells. Six of the wells have already been closed and the closure process has been initiated for other wells. The result will be better protection for groundwater resources across Alaska.

EPA is working to close approximately 330 banned motor vehicle waste disposal wells in Alaska. Owners and operators of facilities with these wells should contact EPA to learn how to improve their waste management practices to protect drinking water resources. As facilities close existing wells or install new wastewater systems, EPA and the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation can provide advice on alternative, environmentally-friendly methods to handle wastewater.

As part of the settlement, ADOT&PF agreed to pay a $332,000 for the Safe Drinking Water Act violations.

For more information on the Safe Drinking Water Act visit:

View map showing location of 55 banned wells at 47 facilities in Alaska (PDF) (1 pg. 108K)