News Feature | March 31, 2014

Pollution Solution Or Red Tape Trap? EPA Wants Strict Control Of Aquifer

By Sara Jerome
@sarmje

anaquiferreg

The EPA is trying to protect an aquifer in Illinois by elbowing out polluters, but first locals will weigh in on whether this plan will create too much red tape. 

The agency issued a petition this month to classify parts of the Mahomet Aquifer system as a "sole source" aquifer, according to the Daily Journal

This classification "would allow the EPA to review all federally-funded projects within the designated area to ensure they will not contaminate the aquifer," according to the Journal.

This aquifer "is the source of approximately 53 million gallons of water every year for 120 public water systems and thousands of rural wells that serve about a half million people — more than half the population of the region," the report said. 

The public comment period for the agency's petition will end June 12.

Why would anyone oppose such a plan? The News-Gazette provided some potential reasons, even though the paper supported the EPA's action. 

First, the designation could add to the size of government, the paper said. 

Second, "the designation could create time-consuming obstacles for projects that offer economic benefits," it said.

Third, "the designation is not a cure-all. Only projects that would use federal funds would be subject to EPA review," the report said.

The EPA issued its petition under a program designed to protect "sole source" aquifers. This designation can be given to "an aquifer that supplies at least 50 percent of the drinking water consumed in the area overlying the aquifer," according to the agency. 

This program was established under the Safe Drinking Water Act

The mandate explains that after the "sole source" designation is given, "no commitment for federal financial assistance (through a grant, contract, loan guarantee, or otherwise) may be entered into for any project which the EPA Administrator determines may contaminate such aquifer through a recharge zone so as to create a significant hazard to public health."  

For more on government oversight, check out Water Online's Regulation & Legislation Solution Center

Image credit: "Thousand Springs," © 2010 brewbooks, used under an Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic license: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/

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