The Carlisle Mosquito Online

Friday, March 20, 2009

Expanded well regs to include increased testing, BOH enforcement

Several years ago, when the Carlisle Board of Health (BOH) first became aware that the state planned to update its Title 5 regulations (released in April 2008), the BOH began work to update the town’s official septic regulations and water supply regulations. The local septic regulations were updated last year and on February 10, in preparation for its March 17 public hearing, the board released the final draft of the new well water regulations.

A comparison of the current and proposed regulations reveals several significant changes that, according to BOH Agent Linda Fantasia, are needed to allow the town to better protect the quality of the groundwater. In particular, the draft includes regulations to address private wells in multi-family developments, private irrigation wells in a development with a community water supply and abandoned wells.

Multi-family developments

The draft does not suggest any changes in the required flow rates. However, in order to protect neighbors’ water supplies, under the proposed regulations, a 24-hour monitored flow test would be required for any proposed private well or combination of wells intended to serve three or more housing units. According to the draft, “existing private wells within a 500-foot radius of the proposed well location, with permission of the well owner, shall be digitally monitored as part of and at the same time as the flow testing of the proposed well.” Fantasia points out that a provision such as this may have been helpful when the Malcolm Meadows development was built. At that time the flow rate of at least one well on Stearns Street was affected.

Irrigation wells

The proposed regulations also address the potential draw-down effect of irrigation wells. The draft states, “Proposed or existing irrigation wells must be flow tested at the same time as the proposed community water supply whether or not the proposed well is classified as a public or private water supply.” By monitoring neighboring wells and irrigation wells during the testing of a potential multi-unit well, the BOH hopes to better ensure that the available water supply will be adequate.

Abandoned wells

The draft also includes the procedure, based on the DEP Model Well Guidelines, for dealing with abandoned wells. “Abandoned wells, test holes and borings shall be decommissioned within 90 days so as to prevent the well, including the annular space outside the casing, from becoming a channel for the vertical movement of water.” A sanitary seal or well cap must be used to secure abandoned wells. Although the property owner is responsible for this work, only registered well drillers may plug abandoned test holes, borings or wells. The draft also states, “In the case of new well construction, all test holes and borings shall be plugged before the well driller completes work at the site” According to BOH meeting minutes, this had been a problem at the Coventry Woods Development, where eventually the developer had the five public wells capped.

Permitting procedure

An expanded section of the proposed regulations describes the permitting procedure. The property owner must provide a plan indicating the location of the (proposed) well, signed by a registered surveyor or engineer, a description of current and prior land uses within a 200-foot radius of the well must be provided and the owner must show proof that abutters have been notified. The proposed regulations also state that the BOH may choose to require additional information such as the location of waste sites, underground storage tanks, agricultural land uses and/or utility rights-of-way that are within 500 – 1000 feet of the site.

Water supply certificate

The draft states that prior to the issuance of an occupancy permit for an existing structure or prior to the issuance of a building permit for new construction, a water supply certificate must be issued by the BOH for the use of a private well. In order to obtain a water supply certificate, the applicant must submit a well construction permit, a copy of the state-required water well completion report, a copy of the pumping test report and a copy of the water quality report.

Water quality testing

The draft lists several additions to the required water quality testing, In addition to the currently required tests for iron, lead, manganese, sodium, sulfate, nitrogen-nitrate, pH and dissolved solids, the proposed regulations would require testing for coliform bacteria, arsenic, chloride, radon and selenium. Wells located in District A would also need to be tested for volatile organic compounds including methyl tertiary butyl ether (MTBE). As part of the proposed regulations, the BOH states that if radon test results exceed 10,000 pC/L, the air should also be tested for radon. As stated in the draft, the BOH reserves right to require re-testing or testing for additional parameters when it determines they are necessary.

Fantasia stated that the BOH requires water quality testing as a means of full disclosure when a property is transferred. When asked what would happen if a privately owned well failed a water quality inspection, Fantasia stated that it is really up to the owner. The board needs to know that the issue is being addressed. She added, “In all my experience here, we’ve never had to get involved with that. We advise owners.”


Methods of enforcement and penalties are not clearly delineated in the current regulations. The draft states that the BOH “shall investigate violations and take actions it deems necessary to protect public health and enforce regulations.” The proposed regulations would allow the BOH the ability to order an owner to comply with the regulations. Owners may request a hearing or appeal a BOH decision. Penalties include fines of $10 to $500 per day of non-compliance.

Other changes

At 16 pages, the proposed regulations are far more detailed than the current four pages. The draft includes three pages of definitions which were based on those provided by the state Department of Environmental Protection. Requirements are more clearly defined. Rather than the current statement under the Methods section that “reasonable sanitary measures and precautions” be observed, five pages of specific well construction requirements are provided.

Acceptance of the proposed well regulations would ensure that well location specifications will now match those in the Title 5 or the local septic set-backs listed in the Carlisle Septic Regulations.

Public hearing

No visitors attended the March 17 public hearing to discuss proposed changes to the town well regulations. However, several members of Carlisle’s Planning Board sent detailed comments on the draft, which board members discussed.

On recommendation from David Nolton from Nashoba Analytical who has performed water testing for Carlisle in the past, the BOH voted not to include selenium in required tests, because it is not a part of the regular testing package and would cost homeowners an addition fee. Board members also agreed to substitute conductivity for dissolved solids, after it was pointed out that this equivalent is already covered by the baseline testing set.

Since the changes are to regulations and not to by-laws, no town-wide vote is required for their approval. The BOH is expected to vote on acceptance of the proposed water supply regulations at their next meeting.∆

© 2009 The Carlisle Mosquito