How does the underground injection control (UIC) program help protect sources of drinking water?
The UIC program is a crucial component of the source water assessment and protection program because it identifies, permits, and regulates the design, siting, operation, and maintenance of injection wells that are designed to dispose of waste underground. It is the major federal and state program to control approximately 800,000 wells with the potential to contaminate drinking water sources if not properly managed. The program identifies those wells that are considered potential contaminant sources in any source water assessment and protection program contaminant source inventory. For example, all new motor vehicle waste disposal wells (e.g., service station bay floor drains) and all new large-capacity cesspools (e.g., serving multiple dwellings or single units serving more than twenty persons per day) were banned as of April 2000. The Safe Drinking Water Act requires EPA to provide safeguards so that injection wells or other similar conveyance systems do not endanger current and future underground sources of drinking water. Through the UIC program, EPA has developed minimum federal standards to regulate wells that range from deep, technically-sophisticated and highly-monitored wells, to shallow on-site drainage systems such as septic systems, cesspools, and storm water drainage wells. These requirements also cover wells that discharge a variety of hazardous and non-hazardous fluids above, into, or below aquifers. EPA’s main concern relative to the source water assessment and protection program is the large inventory of Class V UIC wells — typically shallow on-site drainage systems such as septic systems, cesspools, and storm water drainage wells. They are a concern because their simple construction provides little or no treatment of the injected fluids. There are more than 500,000 Class V wells in operation (Consider the Source: A Pocket Guide to Protecting Your Drinking Water, EPA 816-K-02-002, June 2002).
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