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Drinking Water Protection Program Activities: Adapted from the OHA/DEQ Annual Report to EPA - June 2012

The Oregon Health Authority Drinking Water Program and its partner agency, the Department of Environmental Quality Drinking Water Protection Program, implement drinking water protection in Oregon. Oregon’s Drinking Water Protection activities for both DEQ and OHA through June 30, 2011 are summarized below. Additional detail can be found in our annual report to EPA.

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Source Water Assessment Data Availability and Use

Oregon continues to improve access to data about drinking water source area assessments. Maps and statewide GIS shapefiles of drinking water source areas and potential sources of contamination are available on

  • DEQ's Drinking Water Protection website
  • DEQ's Facility Profiler  - a location based system showing DEQ permit holders and cleanup sites
  • DEQ's LASAR (Laboratory Analytical Storage and Recovery) a database for air and water quality monitoring data.
  • OSU Institute for Natural Resources website and
  • Oregon Geospatial Data Clearinghouse.

DEQ also regularly provides drinking water data to local governments, Federal contractors, and consultants when effective security of the data is provided.

Assisting Individual Public Water Systems

As of June 2012, 237 community water systems have “substantially implemented” a strategy to protect their drinking water. These systems include many of Oregon’s larger communities and serve about 3.2 million Oregonians, 84 percent of the estimated 3.8 million Oregonians served by community water systems. “Substantial implementation” occurs when Oregon agencies determine that actions have been taken to appropriately reduce the risk of potential contamination within the community water system source water area. These actions can take place at the state, regional and/or local levels.

Both OHA and DEQ provide technical assistance to water systems that request it, regardless of whether their intention is to develop a full drinking water protection plan or simply identify and implement key protective measures for their source water. Many of these systems and the state assistance do not qualify for “substantial implementation” status, but their interest and positive correspondence demonstrates an awareness of the issues and a desire to be involved to the extent their resources allow.

Statewide and Regional Projects

Irrigon Regional Water Sampling and Protection

The City of Irrigon developed new public water system groundwater wells in 2007 to replace wells lost due to nitrate contamination. The two new wells are shallow and located near the Columbia River. Water quality tests on the new wells immediately showed the presence of nitrate and further monitoring indicated an increasing nitrate concentration. The city requested help from the Governor’s Office and state agencies tasked with preventing groundwater contamination. DEQ and OHA collaborated on a new Source Water Assessment document for the city in 2011. This served as a basis for understanding the risks of nitrate and other contaminants affecting the new wells. The city was awarded a Drinking Water Source Protection Fund grant in 2011 (actual funds to be awarded in Sept 2012) to develop strategies and implement protection within the groundwater source area. DEQ convened a local task force with other partners to implement a sampling and analysis plan in early 2012 and started on an interim outreach project for nitrate reduction.

Clackamas River Drinking Water Protection Work

The Clackamas River Water Providers (six municipal water providers on the Clackamas River that serve over 300,000 people) completed a robust drinking water protection plan in 2010 and have subsequently been implementing regional strategies in the Clackamas watershed. In 2011, the water providers in partnership with the Clackamas County and Marion Soil and Water Conservation Districts and the Clackamas River Basin Council held two Pesticide Round Up Events partially funded by a Clean Water Act 319 nonpoint source grant. More than 100 participants brought in over 56,000 pounds of pesticide waste. The nursery industry was a major participant but other groups also took part including vegetable and berry growers, golf courses and several smaller PWSs including a school district and manufactured home park. Legacy pesticides (some banned as early as the 1970’s) were collected including DDT, Chlordane and Dioseb. In addition, approximately 1,500 pounds of clean and residue-free, triple-rinsed plastic containers were also accepted for recycling at no charge to producers. See the DEQ fact sheet or the Clackamas River Water Providers website for more information on its pesticide reduction programs.

In 2011, the Clackamas River Water Providers completed a GIS analysis of drinking water risks identified within the watershed using a 2011 Safe Drinking Water Source Protection Fund grant. The GIS analysis identified areas of highest potential risk to water quality and is being used to prioritize source protection actions. Building on DEQ’s inventory and technical assistance, the GIS analysis includes evaluation of threats to water quality from septic systems, agriculture, forestry, urban development, vulnerable soils, and permitted discharge sources. In addition, the analysis lays the foundation for, and identifies data needed to develop a watershed emergency response system. The final products are also being used to develop public and private partners and funding for projects on the ground.

Drinking Water Source Monitoring Project

New sampling was performed as part of Phase III of the Drinking Water Source Monitoring project in early 2012. The locations of the source water sampling were selected based on detections of nitrates and other contaminants of concern in SDWIS monitoring. The samples were taken above the surface water intakes and at wells for analysis of a list of over 250 Oregon-specific herbicides, insecticides, pharmaceuticals, VOCs (including cleaners), fire retardants, PAHs, personal care products, and plasticizers. The purpose of the Source Monitoring project is to collect data from multiple contaminant sources to assist in determining priorities for technical assistance and prevention, and to collect screening level data on whether there are potential human health risks beyond those routinely monitored within the SDWA regulations.

A final report was posted on DEQ’s website for Phase I and Phase II of the Drinking Water Source Monitoring project. Phases I and II included testing 17 surface water intakes, 16 wells, and 1 spring to determine characteristics and detections in the source waters identified as high-risk drinking water sources through the Source Water Assessments. Analytical results were interpreted and a short report was sent to each of the public water systems in 2010 and 2011. The summary report is available on DEQ's drinking water protection website.

Nonpoint Source Coordination

DEQ’s nonpoint source specialist for drinking water regularly assists the Nonpoint Source program with forestry and agriculture issues, provides reviews on NPS program efforts, and participates in committees working to improve FPA rules for stream protection-benefits to fish and drinking water, especially in Coast Range. Staff reviewed the technical basis for turbidity standard revisions, participated as part of Internal Review Team, and wrote a draft document detailing drinking water protection options for private forestlands.

DEQ worked directly with 15 public water systems to research/document water quality problems with turbidity. Several systems are impacted so severely that the intake must be shut down regularly due to extremely high turbid water. Research and assessment included collection of raw water data, interviews with operators, GIS research on land uses, and field inspections. The final report is posted on DEQ's Drinking Water Program website. DEQ continues to use the data from the report to promote more active protection and awareness of potential violations to the turbidity standards in the public water supply watersheds. The data from the report is also being used as input in DEQ’s current process of revising the turbidity standard.

DEQ nonpoint source staff also completed a data analysis for public water systems with high nitrate levels. Included in that analysis is a soil nitrate sensitivity analysis and research on technical information on nitrate sources. There are currently 70 public water systems in Oregon that are having nitrate violations of the MCL, or are at risk of having nitrate violations. The nitrate data has been statistically analyzed and the sources of nitrates were evaluated to gain an understanding of the need for outreach and prevention planning. The focus on systems with high nitrates will be to develop plans to reduce the loading within the 2- and 5-year Time-of-Travel Zones for each well. DEQ and OHA are already working with a few of these systems to implement nitrate-reduction plans.

Tualatin Watershed GIS Demonstration Project

DEQ participated in several 2011 and 2012 webinars and conference calls to share results and benefits from the GIS demonstration project in the Tualatin watershed. The GIS products from the Tualatin project continue to be used by partners working within the watershed. This was a national demonstration project integrating land use and water quality issues, called “Enabling Source Water Protection: Aligning State Land Use and Water Protection Programs”. The work was completed in June 2010 under a grant from the US Environmental Protection Agency in partnership with The Trust for Public Land, Smart Growth Leadership Institute, Association of State Drinking Water Administrators, and River Network. The goal of Oregon’s project was to create a replicable GIS-based tool to assist in prioritizing lands and sensitive areas for protection in the watershed above drinking water intake(s) by identifying healthy lands most important for conservation of water quality and identifying impaired lands that ought to be restored to help protect water quality. Much of the GIS research and the methods used for the project completion will be useful in other watersheds when assessments are undertaken.

Public Water System Locator Web Tool

Initiated in 2010, DEQ continues to update the web-based tool designed to allow agency staff, permittees, and the public to easily identify and obtain contact information for downstream public water system intakes. This was initially designed to assist NPDES permittees as they develop and implement Emergency Notification and Response Plans but is also useful for other applications as well. For example, DEQ’s water quality permit staff use the tool to identify beneficial uses and suction dredge miners applying for the new 700-PM general permit are directed to this tool to identify downstream public water supplies. The website also provides a summary of the Source Water Assessment report for surface water systems and links to OHA’s Data Online for contact information of public water suppliers that may be affected by a release or spill.

Coordination with the Oregon Toxics Reduction Strategy

DEQ drinking water staff continued working in 2011 toward developing an agency-wide comprehensive, integrated approach to address toxic pollutants in the environment. The integrated approach is essential because these pollutants readily transfer from one environmental media to another. DEQ's cross-media toxics reduction strategy is being developed through the assistance of 11 separate DEQ programs that already address some aspect of toxic management, including drinking water protection. The objectives of this strategy include optimizing agency resources by focusing on the highest priority pollutants in a coordinated way, implementing actions that reduce toxic pollutants at the source, and establishing partnerships with other agencies and organizations to increase the effective use of public and private resources. The drinking water protection program input has been useful for assistance in identifying sources of toxics, selecting toxic reduction priorities, and prioritizing the statewide human health risks. A 2012 strategy report is available on DEQ's Toxics Reduction website.

Watershed Basin Assessments and Action Plans

DEQ continues to develop drinking water-specific sections and data input for the Watershed Assessment Reports, including identifying drinking water sources, drinking water quality issues, potential contaminant sources and recommendations for action. These assessments draw on the expertise of DEQ’s 17 water quality sub-programs include recommendations for actions that DEQ and others who are interested in these basins can take to improve water quality. To date, these in-depth assessments have been developed for the for the North Coast, South Coast, Deschutes, Rogue, Powder/Burndt, and Clackamas/Sandy basins. The Umatilla and Willamette basins assessments are in progress.

DEQ is working directly with multiple public water systems in a basin or subbasin to encourage protection strategies on a watershed scale basis. This includes coordinating with surface water providers in the Rogue River, Umpqua, Siletz, and Clackamas subbasins. For example, DEQ staff are working with the Winston-Dillard Water District, Oregon Department of Agriculture, and Douglas Soil and Water Conservation District to address high E. coli bacteria counts in untreated drinking water detected during Safe Drinking Water Act testing. The partners are providing technical assistance to interested landowners, implementing on-the-ground restoration projects, and conducting effectiveness monitoring at project sites identified as high risk for bacteria contribution.

The City of Florence is served by a vulnerable water system that draws from a sole-source aquifer under federal definitions. OHA and DEQ drinking water staff have worked with the City and the Siuslaw Watershed Council to improve and protect drinking water and area water resources for several years. EPA awarded the City of Florence over $500,000 to work with tribal, federal, state, and local partners in the Siuslaw watershed to help with the water quality efforts, as well as protect fish and wildlife habitat within their sole source aquifer study area. Key outcomes of the three-year Siuslaw Estuary Partnership project include an aquifer protection plan to be submitted to DEQ for certification, along with comprehensive plan and policy amendments within land use planning work to protect resources within the aquifer boundary. Florence is also collecting valuable groundwater and surface water monitoring data that will enhance efforts to better understand and improve water quality.

Land Use Planning Assistance

Periodic Review
DEQ and OHA regularly provide input to cities and counties that are reviewing their land use plans under Oregon’s comprehensive land use planning process (“Periodic Review”). The letters to communities included detailed information regarding their water sources, maps of the source areas, and specific recommendations and guidance for drinking water protection.

Model Ordinance Development
DEQ and Oregon Department of Land Conservation and Development updated model ordinance language that jurisdictions can use to protect groundwater and surface water sources of drinking water. The model ordinance is used by communities and counties when developing land use plans for protecting their sources of drinking water.

Coordination with State and Federal Agencies

Forest and Agriculture
DEQ continues to work with other state and federal agencies to raise the profile of the need for drinking water protection in Oregon, including the Department of Agriculture, Department of Forestry, US Forest Service, USDA, and the BLM. SWA data is provided as needed to other agencies to facilitate incorporation of protection strategies into their respective programs.

Water Resources Department
OHA continues to work with the Oregon Water Resources Department and various consultants to encourage the development of source water protection in conjunction with Aquifer Storage and Recovery projects. Most ASR projects in Oregon are operated by Community Water Systems that are regulated by OHA. The effort involves reviewing proposed ASR projects during the Limited License and Permit application processes, and reviewing License/Permit modifications and/or extensions. OHA evaluates the ASR well and the receiving aquifer susceptibility to contamination using sensitivity analysis tools and potential contaminant source inventory data developed during Source Water Assessment activities. Water systems with ASR projects are encouraged to protect both their ASR project source water and native groundwater near the ASR project. The OHA review also ensures that for each ASR project, injected and recovered water monitoring requirements meet SDWA standards. During the current reporting period OHA commented on and/or provided technical assistance to six ASR projects involving Community Water Systems.

OHA also collaborates with the Oregon Water Resources Department to develop a Water and Monitoring Well Data Standard that will specify a common method for locating and identifying water and monitoring wells in the state. The data standard will allow users to acquire data from disparate sources and use the results in an appropriate manner for the required need, such as well drillers logs, water-level data, water quality data, etc. The standard was endorsed by the Oregon GIS Standards Forum in January 2012. Once funding is available, an internet based repository will be completed and locational data will be entered into the repository. Once data is entered into the repository, it will become easier to assess current and historic water quality within identified Drinking Water Source Areas.

Other OHA Programs
The SWA database and GIS resources continue to be utilized to assist other OHA projects, especially in the emergency spill response notification network, Plan Review process, groundwater under the direct influence of surface water monitoring program, wellfield analysis determinations, SOC use monitoring waivers, water system Consumer Confidence Reporting, and continued implementation of the Groundwater Rule.

During the current reporting period, OHA staff used Source Water Assessment tools to provide guidance and/or review the final construction of 150 public water supply wells and springs that went through the OHA Plan Review process.  The assessment of well construction and aquifer characteristics helped ensure that each public water supply well either met current construction standards or, if not, were appropriately identified for 12 months of source water assessment monitoring under the Groundwater Rule. Data regarding new wells is maintained by OHA in the water system's Source Water Assessment file to be used later when implementation staff re-evaluate the water system for a Source Water Assessment update/modification.

GIS resources generated and maintained by the Oregon DEQ during the Source Water Assessments are also used to review monitoring reduction requests from Community Water Systems that are submitted to OHA. Community Water Systems may request a "Wellfield Determination" to identify the Entry Point most susceptible to contamination for representative sampling of VOCs and SOCs provided; their sources are on separate Entry Points, are close together, and draw water from the same aquifer. A Community Water System may also request a SOC Use Waiver which involves documenting SOCs used within the identified Drinking Water Source Area as per current land use practices, potential contaminant sources identified during the Source Water Assessment, water quality sampling results, and reported chemical use within the local County. During the current reporting period, OHA staff reviewed 10 requests for Wellfield Determinations. There were no requests for SOC Use Waivers during the current reporting period.

OHA continues to make use of SWA database to implement the Groundwater Rule in Oregon. In December 2009, OHA opted to utilize the hydrogeologic sensitivity assessments generated as a result of the SWAs to identify groundwater sources that should conduct 12 months of source assessment monitoring as a result of susceptibility to viral contamination. During the current reporting period, OHA developed an automated sample tracking/result system and began issuing violations to public water systems that did not collect required monthly assessment monitoring samples. As a result of the automated system, compliance with monthly sampling results has increased, monthly sampling results are quickly evaluated, and monthly monitoring schedules are quickly closed out once monitoring requirements have been met.

To date, 275 groundwater sources have been identified as susceptible to viral contamination and completed required monthly assessment monitoring. Of those, 23 have been confirmed as virally contaminated. OHA staff reviewed/updated SWA data for each of the contaminated sources and made recommendations for either permanent installation of 4-log inactivation/disinfection or reconstruction of the source. If the aquifer was the primary pathway for contamination, 4-log inactivation/disinfection was recommended. However, source reconstruction was recommended if inadequate source construction was the primary pathway for contamination. OHA and DEQ staff work collaboratively to identify source water protection tools for those water systems where 4-log inactivation/disinfection is installed as a permanent solution.

Coordination With Rural Nonprofit Organizations

National Rural Water Association (NRWA)

OHA and DEQ coordinate work with the state NRWA affiliate (Oregon Association of Water Utilities) through monthly coordination meetings, providing comments on workplans, providing technical assistance, speaking at conferences/workshops, and receiving annual updates of their progress in the area of Source Water Protection. Much of their Source Water Protection work since 2006 is reflected in our reported numbers to date. Our database indicates that they have provided Source Water Protection assistance to 12 community water systems classified as substantially implemented and 38 community water systems classified as initially implemented. Our database also indicates that they have provided Source Water Protection assistance to 7 non-transient non-community water systems classified as substantially implemented and 10 non-transient non-community water systems classified as initially implemented.

Rural Community Assistance Corporation (RCAC) DEQ and OHA have coordinated work with RCAC by providing ongoing technical assistance during the planning of outreach and education efforts targeting septic tank pollution prevention near public water sources. During the current reporting period, RCAC developed a public education brochure and a utility decision maker education flyer identifying low or no cost measures to reduce or eliminate water pollutants. Over 4,000 brochures and 250 flyers were distributed at events like, the Network of Oregon Watershed Councils conference, League of Oregon Cities conference, and Small Cities Support Network regional meetings. RCAC also conducted an email outreach effort by sharing digital versions of the brochure and flyer with small rural drinking water and waste water utilities. RCAC also provided technical support for the development and implementation of protection efforts on Garrison Lake, an emergency water supply for the City of Port Orford. By coordinating with other local environmental organizations, a septic system workshop was developed and held for owners/users living within the Garrison Lake Watershed. During the project, an Oregon Department of Land Conservation and Development grant was obtained to produce educational materials that were mailed to over 120 septic system owners/users, conduct phone call outreach, and provide no cost septic inspections. As a result, 5 septic inspections were conducted, and 2 septic systems were repaired.

Assistance to Smaller Non-Community Water Systems (schools, campgrounds, work sites)

OHA and DEQ continue to work with non-transient non-community water systems, to achieve substantial implementation status. Furthermore, OHA believes schools comprise a sensitive population and thus it is an important investment in public health to include them as priority water systems for implementation assistance. In addition, we include on the priority list about 30 to 40 small schools that fall below the formal definition of a public water system. As of June 2012, a total of 29 non-community water systems have "substantially implemented" a strategy to protect their drinking water.

OHA continues to work toward completing Source Water Assessments for those Transient Non-Community water systems that remain on the 1999 "to do" list and the 30 to 40 small schools. During the previous reporting period (2010 to 2011) we noted that 67 of these water systems had their Drinking Water Source Areas delineated, sensitivity analysis completed, and potential contaminant source inventory conducted. We anticipate the release of more reports for these small systems during the next reporting period.

State Revolving Fund Grants

Oregon DEQ and OHA continued to promote the use of the Drinking Water Protection Fund for drinking water source protection grants and loans. During the 2011 to 2012 reporting period, water systems submitted 10 Letters of Interest (LOI) for drinking water source protection projects. Two LOI for surface water systems were reviewed and scored by DEQ and eight LOI for groundwater systems were reviewed and scored by OHA. Final project rankings were compiled once scoring was completed by each agency and recommendations for projects to be funded were passed on to Oregon Business Development Department (OBDD) in November of 2011 for final paperwork and release of funds. A total of 7 drinking water protection projects were recommended to OBDD with funding awards totaling $207,455.

Information Sharing

Trainings and Workshops
DEQ and OHA remain involved in a number of workshops and conferences supporting drinking water protection outreach in the reporting period. These included Rural Communities Assistance Corporation, Oregon Association of Water Utilities, American Water Works Association Short Schools, OHA Small Water System Training Courses, OHA Drinking Water Advisory Committee meetings, and numerous watershed council meetings.
DEQ and OHA have initiated an outreach program targeting smaller community water systems through the League of Oregon Cities, Small Cities Support Network. The League is an organization that represents 242 incorporated cities. Their Small Cities Support Network meetings are designed to assist smaller communities in successfully completing projects and learning new ways of overcoming challenges. DEQ and OHA staff have been successful in getting on the agenda for regional network meetings and presenting information on drinking water source protection concepts, incentives, and grant funding opportunities.
OHA and DEQ contribute drinking water protection articles to the “Pipeline” newsletter sent to local officials at Oregon community water systems. The Pipeline articles provide updates for regional and statewide projects, such as the Drinking Water Source Monitoring results, and highlight examples of local communities that have implemented drinking water protection strategies.

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For more information about DEQ's Drinking Water Protection Program please see the Staff Contacts and Resources.

Oregon Department of Environmental Quality
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