ground water

FracFocus Report: Helping us Paint a Fuller Picture

By Tom Burke

Only a few years ago, very little was known about the potential impacts of hydraulic fracturing on drinking water resources. Congress asked us to embark on a major effort to advance the state-of-the-science to accurately assess and identify those risks. Today, we are releasing a new report to provide a fuller picture of the information available for states, industry, and communities working to safeguard drinking water resources and protect public health.

The Analysis of Hydraulic Fracturing Fluid Data from the FracFocus Chemical Registry 1.0. is a peer-reviewed analysis built on more than two years of data provided by organizations that manage FracFocus, the Ground Water Protection Council and the Interstate Oil and Gas Compact Commission. Operators disclosed information on individual oil and gas production wells hydraulically fractured between January 2011 and February 2013 and agency researchers then compiled a database from more than 39,000 disclosures.

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Editor's Note: The views expressed here are intended to explain EPA policy. They do not change anyone's rights or obligations.

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Celebrating National Groundwater Awareness Week

By Dr. Peter Grevatt

One of my favorite ways to travel is by bicycle. So, when I visited southern California last month, I jumped at the chance to ride along the San Gabriel River to see how Los Angeles County sustainably manages their drinking water supplies to support their growing population.

A recent defining experience for communities in California, and many other regions of the county, has been drought of an intensity that hasn’t been seen in generations. The severity of this drought has forced communities to address questions about their ability to meet their basic water needs. A common theme for many has been the critical role of a reliable supply of ground water in their ability to survive and thrive into the future.

I followed my ride along the San Gabriel with a visit to the extraordinary treatment facility operated by the Orange County Water District. Through a partnership with the Orange County Sanitation District, this facility takes highly treated wastewater and purifies it with a three-step advanced treatment process. This water is used to replenish their groundwater basin, preventing seawater intrusion and helping to supply drinking water to over 600,000 people.

I also visited the Iipay Nation of Santa Ysabel in San Diego County, a small tribal community that is facing a diminished ground water supply. Chairman Perez and members of the Tribal leadership described their efforts toward water conservation, leak detection and repair, and identifying new drinking water supplies to support the needs of their Tribal members.

Communities large and small are taking on the challenge of ensuring a reliable water supply. Clean ground water will play a vital role in their long term solution, as it currently does every day for over 100 million Americans.

These communities make clear that effective groundwater management will play a central role in keeping our communities healthy. During National Groundwater Awareness Week (March 8-14, 2015) let’s take time to celebrate all the great work across the country that is being done to protect our nation’s groundwater, so that communities can rely on this precious, limited resource now and in the future.

About the author: Peter Grevatt, Ph.D. is the director of EPA’s Office of Ground Water and Drinking Water.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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Kids Deserve Safe Drinking Water at School and at Home

By Dr. Francine St-Denis, OGWDW

I love watching my boys playing outside. After running around, they’ll bound up to the nearest water fountain for a drink of water. Nothing seems to beat the fascination my boys and most young kids seem to have with water fountains. It could be that the bubbling stream of water offers numerous possibilities for misadventures like splashing your brother. But I know they need water to stay healthy and hydrated. As a parent, I am very interested in making sure that the water our children are drinking is safe. As a scientist in EPA’s Office of Ground Water and Drinking Water, that is my top priority!

The majority of kids in the United States, including my own, spend large portions of their day in school. Most schools and child care facilities receive their drinking water from nearby public water systems. Public water systems must comply with the strict drinking water quality standards of the Safe Drinking Water Act.

Water pipes and plumbing fixtures in school buildings can affect the quality of the drinking water. On more than one occasion, I’ve seen water fountains at child care facilities or schools that needed cleaning. Best practices for drinking water in our schools and child care facilities include the following actions:

  1. Clean water fountains daily (reduces bacteria) and clean debris out of faucet outlet screens (to remove particulate lead and other sediments).
  2. Test for your drinking water for lead. The only way to know if your children are exposed to elevated lead levels is to test it.

Over the years, we’ve taken steps to raise awareness of lead in drinking water as a possible source of lead contamination and to encourage facilities to test. As an example of those efforts, EPA has entered into a three-year agreement with the W.K. Kellogg Foundation and the Calhoun County Public Health Department to conduct testing at schools and child care facilities in Calhoun County, Michigan, for lead in drinking water.

For recommendations on how to improve the drinking water in your building, please read EPA’s Drinking Water Best Management Practices for Schools and Child Care Facilities Guide.

For more information about the Safe Drinking Water Act, visit: www2.epa.gov/safedrinkingwater40

About the author: Francine St-Denis is a chemist in the Office of Ground Water and Drinking Water (OGWDW), where she serves as the implementation rule manager for the Lead and Copper Rule and the Radionuclides Rule. She also leads OGWDW’s efforts to reduce lead in drinking water in schools and child care facilities.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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Seeing EPA funds helping the Mississippi River

Last month, as part of the Hypoxia Task Force Meeting in Little Rock, Arkansas, I visited a farm in the Mississippi River Delta area, and more specifically in the Critical Groundwater Area of the Bayou Meto Watershed.  I am honored to co-chair the Hypoxia Task Force and meet with my fellow members throughout the Basin, and these personal visits with the people managing the land in the Basin are always a highlight.

Acting Assistant Administrator Nancy Stoner meets with farmers in Arkansas.

Acting Assistant Administrator Nancy Stoner meets with farmers in Arkansas.

We know that nonpoint source nutrient pollution from fertilizers in the Mississippi River Basin is the most significant threat to water quality in the region and to the Gulf of Mexico. The Arkansas Discovery Farms Program helps many stakeholders make informed decisions about the sustainable future of their farms.  I am delighted to note that the Arkansas Natural Resources Commission has provided EPA Nonpoint Source Program Section 319 funds to the Arkansas Discovery Farm Program – this is just one example of these funds supporting local watershed work across the country.  During my visit, Drs. Mike Daniels and Andrew Sharpley of the University of Arkansas described the Arkansas Discovery Farms Program and how they work with eight participating farms in Arkansas. More

Editor's Note: The views expressed here are intended to explain EPA policy. They do not change anyone's rights or obligations.

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Science Wednesday:Innovation for Clean Water

Each week we write about the science behind environmental protection. Previous Science Wednesdays.

By Lahne Mattas-Curry

Recently, I sat down with Sally Gutierrez, EPA’s Chief of the Environmental Innovation Technology Cluster Development and Support Program, located in Cincinnati, OH. She oversees the Water Technology Innovation Cluster, a public-private partnership covering Ohio, northern Kentucky and southeast Indiana.

Over the last year, the Water Cluster has had significant impact on the way we view water research and water technology commercialization. Gutierrez said, “The region has attracted many emerging small water technology businesses, resulting in several cooperative research agreements and technical assistance from EPA researchers, as well as Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) awards to small businesses developing new technologies to keep our water clean.”

Three of those Small Business awards went to regional companies such as UES, Inc located in Dayton, Ohio. According to Gutierrez, they are developing a real-time In-line sensor for wastewater monitoring. This new technology will be able to detect biological agents and toxins in our water supply in real-time. Something that, if successful, would redefine the way we monitor our wastewater and provide utilities, and EPA, a new way to prevent contaminants from reaching our water.

Speaking of contaminants in our water, Faraday Technology, also in Ohio, is developing a new microelectrode array technology that will enable multiple contaminant monitoring in drinking water, wastewater, surface water and ground water according to Gutierrez.

And with our freshwater resources dwindling, Okeanos Technologies, in northern Kentucky, is developing an innovative new way to take the salt out of saltwater. “Their desalination system uses ion concentration polarization elements and modular arrays,” Sally adds. “This technology takes a really innovative approach to desalination that uses less energy and along with the salt, removes multiple contaminants, including trace contaminants, from water which is of great interest to EPA.”

The impact these small businesses could potentially have on our water supply and even our economy as they grow and create jobs is tremendous. These companies, and the other SBIR winners, are great examples of how a public-private partnership works in developing new technologies to keep our water safe.

As we celebrate 40 years of the Clean Water Act, it’s important to note that the challenges we face today are more subtle and more complex than they were 40 years ago. It’s great that the Water Cluster is looking for new technologies, more innovative and sustainable solutions to make sure that our water supplies are safe and clean for future generations.

About the author: Lahne Mattas-Curry is a communications specialist in EPA’s Office of Research and Development.

Editor’s Note: To hear Sally Gutierrez talk about the exciting innovations flowing out of the Water Cluster, listen to the latest Science Matters podcast.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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