In observance of Protect Your Groundwater Day on September 10, the Indiana Department of Environmental Management (IDEM), the Indiana Department of Natural Resources (IDNR), and the United States Geological Survey (USGS) are joining with the National Ground Water Association (NGWA) in encouraging all Hoosiers to protect Indiana’s ground water.
“In observance of Protect Your Groundwater Day, let us make a new commitment to protect and conserve our underground drinking water supplies,” said Thomas Easterly, IDEM commissioner.
Ground water pollution can come from sources under the ground, such as leaking gasoline storage tanks, landfills that are not properly constructed or operated, and residential septic systems that are not properly maintained. Businesses must follow regulations to properly maintain underground storage tank systems. Landfills have state-of-the-art systems to collect leachate (the liquid from precipitation that passes through the waste materials) and monitor for leaks. Environmental and health officials urge routine inspection and maintenance of septic systems, in order to prevent contamination to clean underground water supplies.
Pollution can also begin at the surface, from chemical or petroleum spills, as well as careless and illegal dumping. “Many common household items list harmful contaminants in their ingredients. While they are not harmful when used according to the label, they can pollute ground water if handled carelessly or illegally dumped,” explained Easterly. “Once contamination gets into ground water, it is very difficult to clean up. The key is preventing pollution before it occurs. Never pour these products down the drain. Used motor oil should never be applied as a dust suppressant.”
Because ground water supplies can dwindle in times of drought, conservation is also encouraged.
In Indiana, more than half of a million residents rely on individual household water wells, while another 2.4 million residents rely on public water supplies that use ground water in all or part. Fortunately, ground water quality in Indiana is good, overall, and supplies are adequate at this time. All Hoosiers can preserve ground water quality and quantity by following these simple tips:
• Follow the label when using and storing cleaners, fertilizer, pesticides, and herbicides, as well as when disposing of unwanted cleaners, paints, used motor oil, old gasoline, fertilizer, pesticides and herbicides.
• Follow all safety precautions to prevent chemical and petroleum spills and releases. Report accidental spills to the IDEM 24-hour spill line, toll free at (888) 233-7745.
• Maintain septic systems. Inspect systems regularly.
• Ensure private water wells are well constructed and maintained to prevent contamination.
• Ensure proper abandonment of unused wells.
• Conserve water. Modify water use. Install water saving devices.
• If you are on a private well, it is recommended that you test your well once a year for coliform bacteria contamination, and every five years for arsenic and nitrates. Even if your water looks, tastes and smells good, it can potentially contain pollutants.
For more information relating to ground water awareness and protection, visit these websites:
• National Ground Water Association website: www.ngwa.org
• IDEM ground water Web page: www.idem.IN.gov/4142.htm
• Indiana Department of Natural Resources Division of Water Web page: www.IN.gov/dnr/water
• Indiana State Department of Health pamphlet on testing private water wells: www.IN.gov/isdh/files/PWW_brochure_06-09-12_FINAL.pdf
About IDEMIDEM (www.idem.IN.gov) implements federal and state regulations regarding the environment. Through compliance assistance, incentive programs, and educational outreach, the agency encourages and aids businesses and citizens in protecting Hoosiers and our environment.