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Wellhead Protection


Residents of St. Joseph County obtain their drinking water from our abundant supply of groundwater. Groundwater in many areas of the county is susceptible to contamination due to the soil type which can allow contaminants to move easily through groundwater. The protection of our groundwater is key to providing good quality drinking water to residents and ensuring our community remains a desirable place to live and work.

Under County Code 52, The Department of Health protects groundwater in areas where large volumes of water are pumped to supply drinking water to cities and towns. These areas are called Wellhead Protection Areas (WHPAs). Any business that is located within a WHPA and poses a threat to groundwater is required to be permitted and inspected. The Department of Health also responds to spills; however, the Wellhead Protection Program focuses on preventing contamination of our groundwater rather than cleaning it up.

Do I need a WHP permit?
If a business is near a public water-well or large water tower, there is a good chance it is in a WHPA. If you do not know if your business is in a WHPA, contact your local public water system or the Department of Health to find out for sure.

Generally, if your business is within a WHPA and you have dry wells, petroleum products, or any threats to groundwater, you may need to obtain a permit. However, there are exclusions, exceptions, and special conditions that may affect whether you need a permit. Even if a business is not required to obtain a permit, it is still subject to inspections and must report spills of hazardous materials to the Department of Health.

How Do I Obtain a WHP Permit?
Any business that is located within a WHPA that poses a threat to groundwater must submit a permit application to the Department of Health. The application includes a number of questions about what hazardous or regulated materials are present on-site and how the business prevents contaminants from getting into the groundwater. A permit fee must be submitted with the application.

An Environmental Health Specialist will review the application, conduct a thorough site inspection, and if needed, work with the business to develop ways to manage threats to the groundwater. After a permit is issued, routine inspections are performed. If you have any questions, need information, or need help in preparing a permit application, contact the Department of Health at or (574) 235-9722.