DEEP: 2004 - Adoption of the Aquifer Protection Land Use Regulations

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Adoption of the Aquifer Protection Land Use Regulations


In 2004 Connecticut took a historic step toward increased protection of public ground water drinking supplies with the DEPís adoption of the statewide Aquifer Protection Land Use Regulations pursuant to CT General Statutes Section 22a-354. The regulations are a critical component of the stateís Aquifer Protection Area Program.

In Connecticut, approximately one-third of the population relies on ground water for their drinking supply. Since the late 1970ís, numerous public and private wells have been found to be contaminated by various pollutants from land use activities. Aquifers, geologic formations able to yield water to wells, cannot be considered naturally protected. At particular risk are "stratified drift" (sand and gravel) aquifers supplying our larger public water supply wells.

To address this issue, Connecticut established the Aquifer Protection Area Program (C.G.S. 22a-354a et. sec.). The purpose of the program is to identify critical water supply aquifer areas and to protect them from pollution by managing land use.

Currently, aquifer protection areas are being designated around all existing wells in stratified drift used by public water systems serving over 1000 people.   The "aquifer protection area" is the critical portion of the aquifer which provides water to the well (sometimes referred to as a "wellhead protection area"). In total, 127 active well fields (wells or groups of wells) in the state will have protection areas. This will affect about 2% of the stateís land area in 76 towns, and protect the water supplies for hundreds of thousands of state residents. 

CT DEP, municipalities, and water companies share protection responsibilities. CT DEP is responsible for the overall program administration. The water companies, which own the wells, are required to map aquifer protection areas according to DEP requirements and subject to DEP approval. Once mapped and approved, aquifer protection areas are adopted by the towns. The municipalities appoint an existing board or commission to serve as the local Aquifer Protection Agency and adopt regulations to control high-risk land use activities that have the potential to contaminate ground water in these areas.

Generally, regulated high-risk activities are ones which use, store, handle or dispose of hazardous materials and wastes. These include certain waste disposal and handling facilities, chemical storage tanks, industrial operations and commercial services. New land use activities of these types are prohibited from locating in aquifer protection areas. Businesses already in existence are required to register their land use activity and follow best management practices designed to minimize contamination.

Connecticutís Aquifer Protection Area Program is one of the first and most comprehensive programs of its kind in the nation.  The program utilizes a proactive approach to prevent pollution from occurring instead of a reactive approach after pollution has occurred.  As of today, 85 aquifer protection areas have been adopted by the municipalities and local regulations protecting these areas have been put in place.

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What You Can Do

Homeowners can help to protect our groundwater and aquifer resources:
  • Properly dispose of all household hazardous wastes
  • Test underground fuel oil tanks for leaks; if possible, replace with aboveground tanks
  • Maintain automobiles by checking for leaks, cleaning up spills and recycling fluids at collection sites
  • Clean up pet waste and dispose of properly
  • Maintain septic systems and have them pumped and inspected every 2-3 years
  • Reduce the use of pesticides, herbicides and lawn fertilizers

"The Aquifer Protection Area Program requires a major commitment from state and local government, business, water companies, and individual residents, but the reward of clean drinking water for now and the future is well worth the effort."
Betsey Wingfield, Bureau Chief, Bureau of Water Protection and Land Reuse

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