WVN #408: Wayland's plan to protect water
- Dear Wayland Voter,
A town committee has issued a new plan to protect Wayland's drinking water. Part of the plan involves greater awareness of what is at stake. You'll find a head start on that below.
-- Beginning June 15, Wayland will again allow outdoor watering by mechanical means on odd and even days, according to the home's street number.
-- The residential sticker fee for the transfer station is unchanged from last year.
Wayland's first Wellhead Protection Plan
Waylanders live atop their water supply. A hefty proportion of land is in sensitive areas where what is spread on lawns or finds its way into the drains from car washing affects the town's water wells. Even more of the town is replete with rivulets and streams that drain into sensitive areas. Many homes are in the aquifer protection district, areas that replenish the wells.
The Wellhead Protection Committee's June 2011 Plan advocates a two-pronged approach to keeping Wayland's water drinkable. One is to urge residents to learn about preferred and harmful practices; another is to support the Department of Public Works (DPW) in its efforts such as prioritizing sensitive areas for sweeping streets and cleaning storm drains in a timely manner.
The mission of the Wellhead Protection Committee (WPC) is to identify potential sources of contamination and find ways to manage them, according to Bruce Young, source water protection specialist, Massachusetts Rural Water Association, the WPC's consultant on the Plan. Environmental Protection Agency funds paid for his work for Wayland.
The WPC's 124-page Wellhead Protection Plan identifies potential sources of contaminants, prioritizes the risks they pose, provides strategies for mitigation and incorporates a previously developed emergency response plan. The Plan can serve as a baseline for applications for financial assistance in the future, consultant Young said.
The Board of Public Works heard a presentation of the Plan at its June 6 meeting and intends to solicit comments on it. The Plan, which includes appendices, resources, maps and action steps, is posted at:
The Plan details the particulars of the town's five wellhead systems with eight wells and their surrounding areas. There are three levels of sensitive areas:
-- Zone I, a radius of 400 feet around each well.
-- The "capture zone," the area from which water is drawn under average conditions.
-- The larger Zone II, the area from which water can be drawn during dry periods, defined as "180 days of pumping at safe yield, with no recharge from precipitation."
The capture zone areas represent 12% of the town's area. The Zone II areas approved by the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection comprise 59% of all land in Wayland and are essentially the Aquifer Protection District (APD).
The Town of Wayland, population 13,886, is part of the "moderately stressed" Concord River Basin and is in the Sudbury River watershed. DEP requires each town to have water usage that equates to a maximum of 65 gallons per day per person so there will be enough water for humans and natural habitat throughout the watershed.
Wayland is making progress towards that goal, but it's not clear if that's because the larger water users are opting to get off the town's water supply for irrigation (e.g. golf courses, athletic fields, private subdivisions, etc.) or because customers are conserving more water, or both.
The Water Management Act permit, which allows Wayland to continue to operate its wells, is scheduled for review and renewal this year.
DEP has issued Source Water Assessment and Protection (SWAP) Reports for communities and water suppliers which identify certain land uses within water supply protection areas which may be potential sources of contamination. Here's a link to DEP's SWAP report for Wayland:
The Wellhead Protection Committee noted that its recommendations on conservation education and outreach are necessary to maintain Wayland's right to withdraw water from the aquifer.
Differences Among Wayland's Wells
The wells are: Happy Hollow #1 and 2, located near the High School; Baldwin Wells #1, 2, 3, which are on Old Sudbury Road near the golf course; and single wells at Chamberlain near Sedgemeadow; Meadowview, across the Sudbury oxbow from Framingham's proposed Danforth housing development; and Campbell in the Trout Brook Conservation area. Each site has at least one distinctive characteristic.
The Happy Hollow wells are deemed in the highest risk category, for a number of reasons, including drawing from a relatively densely settled area. Sodium concentrations have increased substantially in the last decade, although the recent Water Department Consumer Confidence Report mailed to all households averages data from all wells and no longer reports sodium levels for individual wells. Campbell has been susceptible to water pollution caused by beaver activity. Meadowview is not in service because of high concentrations of iron and manganese.
By being informed and more mindful of what can harm the water supply, residents should be able to avoid constructing a second costly water treatment plant, the consultant said.
The bulk of the presentation to the Board of Public Works focused on the Happy Hollow wells as an example, given the highest potential for contamination. The Zone II for Happy Hollow extends from the town's highway garage on Route 27 to the Charena Farms neighborhood and south past the Framingham line. The potential sources of contamination start with the expanse of impervious surfaces (roads) within the Zone II, which carries with it de-icing materials, fluids leaking from vehicles, potential oil or hazardous waste spills from trucks, etc.
There has been much recent construction in a sand pit abutting the high school, which is in the Zone I where no such activity is normally permitted. DPW Director Don Ouellette said the pit is being used to store material excavated from the building site and most of the material will be removed when the new high school buildings are complete. In the meantime, the excavated areas are more vulnerable to accidental spills (e.g. diesel fuel from trucks). It was also recommended that topsoil be applied to the area to revegetate and restore protective filtering capacity. This area was used by the Highway Department in the 1960s as a source of road sand, when the topsoil was stripped, and has been left barren for decades.
With roads approaching three schools in the Zone II, and past years of aggressive application of de-icing materials, both Happy Hollow wells register twice the concentration of sodium recommended by DEP. Dudley Brook funnels stormwater runoff from as far away as Pequot Road directly to the wells. Route 126 (Old Connecticut Path) drains to the wells.
Young said the artificial turf field at the High School is a major potential source of contamination for the two Happy Hollow wells because of material in the field and chemicals used to maintain it. He also said he has not seen a turf field so close to a Zone 1. Ouellette said he wasn't aware that any chemicals are used to clean the field.
Young also suggested the town could potentially replace the artificial turf with natural grass when the million-dollar field's life expires, slated to be 2018. He said some towns have a pretreatment filter in a drain that also flushes away from the well source.
Detailed hydrological testing sponsored by the Committee confirm that about a third of the field is in the capture zone, despite the DEP-required drainage system which was supposed to divert field drainage away from the wells. The entire field is within Zone 2.
Other real and potential issues at the High School site include salting the parking lots, diesel leakage from buses, and science labs, Young noted. He recommended that the DPW and the School Committee develop an Operations and Maintenance Plan to reduce potential hazards.
The Role Residents Play
Residential activity that can harm wells includes substandard or failing septic systems, de-icing materials, depositing oil and grease in household drains, lawn fertilizers, and servicing or washing cars on driveways where the soap or grease flows into storm drains. Some boards of health give neighborhoods a discount for pumping septic tanks within a specified time period to encourage regular pumping, Young said.
Homes with underground oil storage tanks should be aware they have a potential source of major pollution release. The Wellhead Protection Committee, Board of Health and DPW should work with property owners to help upgrade or remove them, he said.
When pool owners drain their pools, they should either pretreat the water to reduce the chlorine content or let the water sit until the chlorine levels are low before draining, Young advised.
Transformers on poles may contain PCBs. Young said he was pleased to hear that the Fire Department carries emergency response kits and detailed maps on its fire trucks.
"Water quality can be improved by conserving water, particularly water used for landscaping and irrigation," the Plan says. " Lawn irrigation is by far the most important reason for the near doubling of Wayland's peak water use in the summer. Excessive lawn watering does not just waste treatedwater and contribute to potential contamination by naturally-occurring compounds, it also alters the grass plant ecosystem, requiring more fertilizer, herbicides, and pesticides. The water runoff from irrigation, which contains these and other contaminants, can then enter the water supply."
Cleaning streets and drains is highly recommended, and consultant Young said it was "great" the town is buying a vacuum truck. Ouellette asked him to repeat that statement so residents attending the meeting would hear it. Town Meeting voters approved the purchase in April.
BoPW Chairman Jonathan Mishara said the board would evaluate timelines for implementation after more review of the Plan. He said he expected to put the Plan on a meeting agenda within 30 days.
The three-year terms of the Wellhead Protection Committee members expired in November 2010 and were extended through this June. The members are Sherre Greenbaum, chair; Jennifer Riley, vice-chair; Linda Segal, secretary; Tom Sciacca, treasurer; and Kurt Tramposch. The five appointive positions have been posted as vacancies on the town website by the selectmen's office since May 10.
DPW Director Ouellette was upset to hear that the Plan had been submitted to DEP without his permission. Greenbaum explained the committee had worked closely with DEP all along, followed its guidance to ensure required information was included, and sent the agency an abridged version after the full version was sent to the BoPW and other town officials for electronic distribution. She agreed to send a copy of the abridged version to the BoPW and to ask DEP to put the report "on hold."
There was no discussion of the fact that Wayland's deadline to begin applying for a state permit to withdraw water was May 31. The Wellhead Protection Plan was in response to the DEP's recommendation that the town have such a plan to demonstrate water resource protection, compliance with state law, and to meet water conservation requirements.
-- Molly Upton
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Wayland Voters Network
Michael Short, Editor