Region 1: EPA New England

Hunt-Annaquatucket-Pettaquamscutt FR

Updated Contact Information
Robert Adler • (617) 918-1396

(Cite as: 53 FR 19026)




Sole Source Aquifer Designation for the Hunt-Annaquatucket-Pettaquamscutt Aquifer Area, Rhode Island

Thursday, May 26, 1988

*19026 AGENCY: U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EAP).

ACTION: Notice.

SUMMARY: In response to a petition from the the towns of North Kingstown and East Greenwich, Rhode Island, notice is hereby given that the Regional Administrator, Region I, of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has determined that the Hunt-Annaquatucket-Pettaquamscutt (HAP) Aquifer Area satisfies all determination criteria for designation as a Sole Source Aquifer, pursuant to section 1424(e) of the Safe Drinking Water Act. The designation criteria include the following: The HAP Aquifer Area is the principal source of drinking water for the residents of that area; there are no viable alternative sources of sufficient supply; the boundaries of the designated area and project review area have been reviewed and approved by EPA; and if contamination were to occur, it would pose a significant public health hazard and a serious financial burden to the area's residents. As a result of this action, all federal financially assisted projects proposed for construction within the HAP Aquifer Area will be subject to EPA review to reduce the risk or ground water contamination from these projects.

DATES: This determination shall be promulgated for purposes of judicial review at 1:00 p.m. Eastern time two weeks after the date of publication in the Federal Register.

ADDRESSES: The data upon which these findings are based are available to the public and may be inspected during normal business hours at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, *19027 Region I, JFK Federal Building, Water Management Division, WGP-2113, Boston, MA 02203. The designation petition submitted may also be inspected at the North Kingstown Free Library in North Kingstown, Rhode Island.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Robert E. Mendoza, Chief of the Ground Water Management Section, EPA Region I, JFK Federal Building, WGP-2113, Boston, MA 02203, 617-565-3600.


I. Background

Section 1424(e) of the Safe Drinking Water Act (42 U.S.C. 300f, 300h-3(e), Pub. L. 93-523) states:
If the Administrator determines on his own initiative or upon petition, that an area has an aquifer which is the sole or principal drinking water source for the area and which, if contaminated, would create a significant hazard to public health, he shall publish notice of that determination in the Federal Register. After publication of any such notice, no commitment for Federal financial assistance (through a grant, contract, loan guarantee, or otherwise) may be entered into for any project which the Administrator determines may contaminate such aquifer through a recharge zone so as to create a significant hazard to public health, but a commitment for Federal financial assistance may, if authorized under another provision of law, be entered into to plan or design the project to assure that it will not so contaminate the aquifer.

On December 30, 1987, EPA received a petition from the towns of N. Kingstown and E. Greenwich, Rhode Island requesting designation of the HAP Aquifer Area as a sole source aquifer. EPA determined that the petition, after receipt and review of additional requested information fully satisfied the Completeness Determination Checklist. A public hearing was then scheduled and held on March16, 1988, in N. Kingstown, Rhode Island, in accordance with all applicable notification and procedural requirements. A two week public comment period followed the hearing.

II. Basis For Determination

Among the factors considered by the Regional Administrator as part of the detailed review and technical verification process for designating an area under section 1424(e) were: (1) Whether the aquifer is the sole or principal source (more than 50%) of drinking water for the defined aquifer service area, and that the volume of water from an alternative source is insufficient to replace the petitioned aquifer; (2) whether contamination of the aquifer would create a significant hazard to public health; and (3) whether the boundaries of the aquifer, its recharge area and streamflow source area(s), the project designation area, and the project review area are appropriate. On the basis of technical information available to EPA at this time, the Regional Administrator has made the following findings in favor of designating the HAP Aquifer Area as a sole source aquifer:

  1. The HAP Aquifer Area is the principal source of drinking water to all of the residents within the service area.
  2. There exists no reasonable alternative drinking water source or combination of sources of sufficient quantity to supply the designated service area.
  3. EPA has found that the towns of N. Kingstown and E. Greenwich have appropriately delineated the boundaries of the aquifer recharge area, designation area and project review area.
  4. Although the quality of the area's ground water is rated as good to excellent, it is highly vulnerable to contamination due to the area's geological characteristics.

Because of this, contaminants can be rapidly introduced into the aquifer system from a number of sources with minimal assimilation. This may include contamination from chemical spills, highway, urban and rural runoff, septic systems, leaking storage tanks, both above and underground, road salting operations, saltwater intrusion, and landfill leachate. Since all residents are dependent upon the aquifer for their drinking water, a serious contamination incident could pose a significant public health hazard and place a severe financial burden on the service area's residents.

III. Description of the HAP Aquifer Area, Designated Area, and Project Review Area

The HAP Aquifer Area covers 41 square miles in central Rhode Island. It encompasses most of N. Kingstown and E. Greenwich, and portions of Coventry, Exeter, Warwick, W. Greenwich and W. Warwick. It is comprised of three hydrogeologically interconnected aquifers. The aquifers consist of extensive deposits of stratified drift. They are generally located in the lowland areas of the basin. The recharge areas or highland portions of the basin consist of interfingered stratified drift and till deposits. Bedrock outcrops can also be found in these highland areas.

The designated area is defined as the surface area above the aquifer system and its recharge area. For the HAP Aquifer Area the boundary of the designated area coincides with the boundary of the project review area. The northern and southern boundaries of the area are the same as those delineated for the Potowomut-Wickford area in the US Geological Survey Water Supply Paper (WSP) 1775. The western boundary of the HAP Aquifer Area is conterminous with the western boundary of the Potowomut-Wickford area except in two areas. In these two areas, the ground water divide differs from the surface water divide. Using the ground water divide for the boundary includes a larger area than would be included using the surface water divide. Technically it is reasonable to extend the designated and project review area boundaries to the ground water divide because ground water from this area can recharge the aquifer system and therefore should be protected. The eastern boundary was mapped by the RI Department of Environmental Management, and is based upon surface topography. This eastern boundary represents the watershed/surface water divide which separates those areas contributing to the ground water reservoirs from those areas contributing to Narragansett Bay.

The recharge areas are usually comprised of bedrock and/or till which may be interfingered with stratified drift materials. The lowland areas, where the aquifers are located, generally consist of stratified drift. Activities occurring in the upland areas can have a direct impact on the ground water quality of the aquifers. For this reason, the designated area boundary and project review area boundary are coincident.

IV. Information Utilized in Determination

The information utilized in this determination includes: The petition submitted to EPA Region I by the towns of N. Kingstown and E. Greenwich, Rhode Island; additional information requested from and supplied by the petitioners; written and verbal comments submitted by the public; and the technical paper and maps submitted with the petition. This information is available to the public and may be inspected at the address listed above.

V. Project Review

EPA Region I is working with the federal agencies most likely to provide financial assistance to projects in the project review area. Interagency procedures and Memoranda of Understanding have been developed through which EPA will be notified of proposed commitment by federal agencies for projects which could contaminate the HAP Aquifer Area. EPA *19028 will evaluate such projects and, where necessary, conduct an in-depth review, including soliciting public comments where appropriate. Should the Regional Administrator determine that a project may contaminate the aquifer through its recharge zone so as to create a significant hazard to public health, no commitment for federal financial assistance may be entered into. However, a commitment for federal financial assistance may, if authorized under another provision of law, be entered into to plan or design the project to ensure that it will not contaminate the aquifer. Included in the review of any federal financially assisted project will be the coordination with state and local agencies and the project's develpers. Their comments will be given full consideration and EPA's review will attempt to complement and support state and local ground water protection mechanisms. Although the project review process cannot be delegated, EPA will rely to the maximum extent possible on any existing or future state and/or local control mechanisms to protect the quality of ground water in the HPA Aquifer Area.

VI. Summary and Discussion of Public Comments

The majority of comments received from the public supported designation of the HAP Aquifer Area as a sole source aquifer. Twelve comments were received from the public. None of these comments expressed opposition to the designation. A few comments raised questions about the implications of the designation. These questions were all answered completely. Notable letters of support were received from state and local governments, as well as letters form environmental organizations and residents. Reasons given for support include: (1) The dependence of the residents on ground water for their drinking water supply; (2) the fact that there are no reasonably available alternative sources; (3) that growth and development in the HAP Aquifer Area threaten the continued purity of the resource; and (4) that the area's designation as a sole source aquifer would heighten public awareness of the vulnerability of the resource, and would encourage further protective efforts.

Michael R. Deland,

Regional Administrator.

[FR Doc. 88-11836 Filed 5-25-88; 8:45 am]


53 FR 19026-01, 1988 WL 280992 (F.R.)