Approximately 80% of Palm Beach County's drinking water supply is from groundwater sources. Contamination is a constant threat from pollutants seeping down into the ground.
In 1985, the Water Resources Management Advisory Board was created and tasked with developing a means to protect existing and proposed drinking water wells and associated wellfields. The Wellfield Protection Ordinance was developed and enacted to regulate businesses adjacent to wellfields that use, handle, store, and produce 5 gallons/25 pounds or more of hazardous and toxic materials.
What is a Wellfield?
A wellfield is the area surrounding a permitted well where 100,000 gallons or more of potable water is pumped out of the ground per day. Currently, there are 44 wellfields in Palm Beach County.
What are the wellfield zones?
Wellfield regulation zones are designated by the time it takes ground water to move from that location to the area where the water is pumped up and sent to the water treatment plant.
- Zone 1 is the land area between the well and the 30-day travel time.
- Zone 2 is the land area between the 30-day and 210-day travel time.
- Zone 3 is the land area between the 210-day and 500-day travel time.
- Zone 4 is the land area within the 1-foot drawdown.
In general, Zone 1 prohibits businesses from using, handling, storing, or producing hazardous and toxic materials because the threat of contamination is too great. Zone 2 requires permitting, secondary containment, and groundwater monitoring. Zone 3 requires permitting and secondary containment. Zone 4 requires permitting to ensure best management practices are in place.
How Does the Wellfield Ordinance Work?
The Ordinance established certain requirements with respect to the use, handling, production and storage of regulated substances within the wellfield zones. Those requirements are administered through a permit and address the following:
- Containment of regulated substances
- Emergency collection devices and cleanup materials
- Emergency plans
- Daily inspection of regulated substances
- Maintenance of containment and emergency equipment
- Reporting of spills
- Monitoring for regulated substances in potable water wells
- Monitoring for regulated substances in groundwater wells on permitted sites
- Alternations and expansions of uses of regulated substances
- Reconstruction after catastrophes
- Financial responsibility to provide cleanup efforts
ERM's Role in Wellfield Protection
The Department of Environmental Resources Management (ERM) was created in 1987 with a main focus to implement the Wellfield Protection Ordinance. Since that time, ERM's oversight of the Wellfield Protection Program has successfully achieved:
- Secondary containment and monitoring and/or removal of over 3.5 million gallons of hazardous substances and 118 pollutant storage tanks from properties within Wellfield Zones 1, 2 and 3.
- Reducing the amount of hazardous substances stored at over 300 facilities.
- Safeguarding over 500 drinking water wells and 44 associated wellfields.
- Testing 366 drinking water wells for 126 organic and 8 inorganic contaminants with no unexpected contamination was revealed.
- State and national recognition.
- ERM's successful Wellfield Protection program has provided assistance to cities, counties and even a province in Canada in developing their programs.