DEVELOPING A NON-PUBLIC WATER SUPPLY PROGRAM
FOR THE STATE OF GEORGIA
Scott A. Uhlich, MCP
Georgia Department of Human Resources
Division of Public Health
BENIFITS OF CHANGE
- Program Goal: Promote safe drinking water for individuals utilizing individual and small well water supplies
- Outcome Objective: By January 1, 2010, all county health departments will utilize the Water Well Assessment Tool on wells sampled by county Environmental Health Specialists. By January 2010, the State Environmental Health office will begin analysis of submitted well assessment reports to determine preventative measures needed.
- Determinant: The number of non-public water wells that test positive for the presence of coliform bacteria each year. The analysis of submitted Water Well Assessments identifying causes of contamination.
- Impact Objective: By January 1, 2010, all Environmental Health Specialists (EHS) involved in well water sampling will be trained on well construction, location and protection requirements. All EHS conducting well water sampling will utilize the Water Well Assessment Tool and submit copies to the State office.
- Process objectives:
- Develop a water well assessment tool for evaluating water wells.
- Train county Environmental Health Specialists in five pilot public health districts on well construction, protection and location requirements, and the utilization of the water well assessment tool. Provide GPS for mapping well locations.
- The State Environmental Health office will develop a data base for inputting well assessment data.
- The State Environmental Health office will discuss the pilot project with Environmental Protection Division for assistance with correction of sub-standard wells.
- Analysis of data from the five pilot districts will be provided to EPD and policy makers.
- Expand the assessment program to all health departments in the state of Georgia.
- In July 2008, meetings were held with Environmental Health District Directors to define the problems observed with individual water well supplies
- A Water Well Assessment Tool was developed to document problems and provide information for analysis by the State Environmental Health office.
- Five Public Health Districts were chosen as pilot districts to utilize the well assessment tool.
- From August, 2008 to January 2009, training was held with county EHS, in the five pilot districts, on well construction, location and protection requirements, and the assessment tool.
- Sampling protocols were developed and laboratory support provided.
- Training on Water Well Assessment Tool completed.
- Training on waterborne illness investigation completed with county EHS and District Epidemiologists.
- An illness questionnaire has been developed for follow-up with individuals served by wells identifies with contamination.
- Well assessment reports and instructions for well chlorination will be provided to homeowners.
- Follow-up sampling by county EHS will be conducted to verify disinfection.
- September, 2008, the State Environmental Health office completed development of a water well data base to input well assessment reports. State Environmental Health office staff met with EPD to discuss enforcement of the Water Well Standards Act.
- State environmental health staff will provide EPD with well assessment reports on new well installations identified as sub-standard wells.
- EPD will report well drillers violating the Water Well Standards Act to the Water Well council for appropriate action.
- January, 2010, the State Environmental Health office will begin analysis of inputted well assessment data.
- Data will be provided to Environmental Health District Directors, EPD staff and state and local policy makers.
- Expansion of the water well assessment program to all districts in the state will be considered.
- Public Water Systems
- Environmental Protection Division, Department of Natural Resources
- Establishes permitting & monitoring requirements.
Non-Public Water Systems –EPD
- Water Well Standards Act of 1985.
- Establishes well construction, location & protection standards.
- Water Well Standards Advisory Council – Licensing & bonding of well drillers.
- No monitoring for compliance.
Non-Public Water Systems
- Division of Public Health, Department of Human Resources
- Well water sampling- County Health Departments
- Disinfection of contaminated wells.
The Division of Public Health is responsible for preventing disease transmission. One of the CDC’s goals for “Healthy Communities” is to provide safe and high quality drinking water. As a service to the community, county environmental health specialists (EHS) conduct well water sampling at homeowners request.
Well water sampling results, from FY04 to 08 for the state of Georgia, indicate that 1 out of 4 wells sampled (28%) test positive for coliform bacteria. Individuals drinking water tested positive for the presence of coliform bacteria are at risk of contracting a waterborne illness.
County EHS provide assistance to homeowners regarding well water disinfection. While this disinfection process eliminates the present contamination, the underlying cause of contamination is not addressed. Homeowners are left with a false impression their well water supply is safe
County EHS report improper well construction, location & protection as primary causes of well contamination. The Water Well Standards Act does not provide for inspection or monitoring of individual and non-public water supplies. A result of not conducting well construction inspections, many wells may be improperly constructed, located & protected.
The State Environmental Health office is working with the Environmental Protection Division in a cooperative manner to improve monitoring and enforcement of the Water Well Standards Act. A Water Advisory Group has been established including Public Health (Environmental Health & Epidemiology), Environmental Protection Division and the Department of Agriculture.
The State Environmental Health office is expanding the training on well construction, location and protection to all districts of the state. The Division of Public Health has accepted a grant from the Centers for Disease control to improve waterborne illness reporting in Georgia. Training on waterborne illness is on-going for county environmental health specialists and epidemiologists.
Discussions concerning development of a permit and inspection program within the Division of Public Health will depend on the analysis of well assessment data and discussions with EPD.