Region 1: EPA New England

Pootatuck FR

Updated Contact Information
Jeff Butensky • (617) 918-1665

(Cite as: 55 FR 11055)




Sole Source Aquifer Designation for the Pootatuck Aquifer, Connecticut

Monday, March 26, 1990

*11055 AGENCY: U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

ACTION: Notice.

SUMMARY: In response to a petition from State Representative Mae Schmidle of the 106th District of Connecticut, notice is hereby given that the Regional Administrator, Region I, of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has determined that the Pootatuck Aquifer 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 Pootatuck Aquifer is the sole 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 or modification within the Pootatuck River Watershed will be subject to EPA review to reduce the risk of ground water contamination from these projects.

DATES: This determination shall be promulgated for purposes of judicial review two weeks after 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, Region I, J.F.K. Federal Building, Water Management Division, GWP-2113, Boston, MA 02203. The designation petition submitted may also be inspected at the Newtown Public Library in Newtown, Connecticut.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Robert E. Mendoza, Chief of the Ground Water Management Section, Water Management Division, EPA Region I, J.F.K. 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 the publication of any such notice, no commitment for Federal financial asisstance (through a grant, contract, loan guarantee or otherwise) may be entered into *11056 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 March 9, 1989, EPA received a petition from State Representative Mae Schmidle of the 106th District of Connecticut requesting designation of the Pootatuck Aquifer 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 meeting was then scheduled and held on November 8, 1989 in Newtown, Connecticut, in accordance with all applicable notification and procedural requirements. A six-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 percent) 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, 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 Pootatuck Aquifer as a sole source aquifer:

  1. The Pootatuck Aquifer is the sole 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. The Petitioner has appropriately delineated the boundaries of the aquifer recharge area, project designation area and project review area.
  4. Although the quality of the Aquifer's ground water is rated as good to excellent, it is highly vulnerable to contamination due to its 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 Pootatuck Aquifer, Designated and Project Review Area

The Pootatuck Aquifer is a 7.9 square mile aquifer located in the Town of Newtown, in southwestern Connecticut. Water contributing recharge to the aquifer drains from a 26.1-square mile watershed within the Housatonic River Basin, and includes small portions of the towns of Monroe and Easton, Connecticut. The aquifer is a typical stratified drift deposit with a saturated thickness generally less than 80 feet. The valley aquifer is underlain by crystalline bedrock, mostly gneiss and schist.

The recharge area is characterized by moderate relief and rolling uplands of bedrock and till. The lowland area where the aquifer is located generally consists of stratified drift. Activities occurring in the upland areas can have a direct impact on the ground water quality of the aquifers.

The designated area is defined as the surface area above the aquifer and its recharge area. For the Pootatuck Aquifer, the boundary of the designated area coincides with the boundary of the watershed basin. The watershed boundary is a surface water divide based on topography, which generally corresponds to the ground water divide. The projected review area is the same as the designated area boundary and includes the entire Pootatuck River watershed.

IV. Information Utilized in Determination

The information utilized in this determination includes: the petition submitted to EPA Region I by Representative Mae Schmidle; additional information requested from and supplied by the petitioner; written and verbal comments submitted by the public; and the technical papers 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 commitments by federal agencies to projects which could contaminate the Pootatuck Aquifer. EPA will evaluate such projects and, where necessary, conduct an in-depth review, including soliciting public comments when 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 developer. Their comments will be given full consideration and EPA's review will attempt to complement and support state and local ground water protection measures. Although the project review process cannot be delegated, EPA will reply to the maximum extent possible on any existing or future state and/or local control measure to protect the quality of ground water in the Pootatuck Aquifer.

VI. Summary and Discussion of Public Comments

Over 100 people attended the November 8, 1989 public meeting regarding the Pootatuck Sole Source Aquifer Petition, and many delivered supportive oral comments. In the six-week period following this meeting, EPA received 12 letters from Newtown residents or public officials, 15 letters from non-Newtown residents, 302 petition signatures and 58 post cards. All but one of these supported the designation.

Significant comments were raised regarding:

  1. The methodology employed to delineate the designated and projected review area;
  2. The figures used to estimate water availability from the Pootatuck Aquifer and projected demand by the community; and
  3. The limitations of protection provided by the federal Sole Source Aquifer Program and the need for local *11057 government to take action to protect the aquifer.

In response to questions about the delineation of the designated and project review areas, EPA supports the use of the watershed boundary as used in the petition. The Petitioner Guidance (February 1987) gives wide discretion in determining the boundaries of the proposed area, and encourages methods that protect both the direct and indirect recharge areas of the aquifer.

In response to comments regarding water availability and demand, EPA has considered the figures given in witten comments in reaching its decision. According to modeling data available, the aquifer is capable of yielding approximately 4.0 million gallons per day ( "mgd"). At least half of the amount will be required to maintain stream quality and to support waste assimilation and the cold water fishery. The State of Connecticut's diversion control law would, in all likelihood, prohibit withdrawals in excess of 2 mgd. Current water use is 1,009,406 gallons per day and projected water supply demand does not increase and drought conditions do not prevail, Newtown should have sufficient water supplies for the next 40 years.

Other comments, including the one comment opposing designation, question the effectiveness of sole source aquifer designation, given that only a small part of the development in the designated, area will receive federal financial assistance. EPA concurs with these remarks, and acknowledges that a comprehensive ground water protection program must include land use planning and management at the state and local levels as well.

Many comments questioned the relationship between the sole source aquifer petition and the siting of a state correctional facility in Newtown. Because no federal funds are associated with this facility, the issue had no bearing on this designation decision. Notable letters of support were received from federal, state and local governments as well as letters from environmental organizations and reisdents. Reasons given for support include: (1) The total 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 Pootatuck River watershed threaten the continued purity of the resource; and (4) that the Pootatuck Aquifer's designation as a sole source aquifer would heighten public awarness of the vulnerability of the resource and would encourage further protection efforts.

Dated: March 14, 1990.

Paul G. Keough,

Acting Regional Administrator.

[FR Doc. 90-6775 Filed 3-23-90; 8:45 a.m.]


55 FR 11055-01, 1990 WL 332433 (F.R.)