319 Grant – Non-Point Source Pollution and Abatement Grant

San Antonio Water System Groundwater Resource Protection Division was awarded an Environmental Protection Agency 319 Non-Point Source Pollution Grant through the
Texas Natural Conservation Commission in August 2000 and completed the project in August 2004.

319 Grant Work Plan Introduction

A major consequence of rapid urbanization through the San Antonio area, specifically over the sensitive Edwards Aquifer recharge and transition zone, has been the abandonment of many water wells. Abandoned water wells remain at the top of the list for potential groundwater contaminant sources, which can be identified and eliminated. Around the wellhead (or the area draining to a wellhead), uncapped or uncased wells provide a direct conduit to groundwater from activities at the surface.

SAWS’ Abandoned Well Program, one of the most proactive in the state, aggressively pursues the identification and closure of approximately 70 abandoned wells each year. However, a number of these wells are identified, but not closed due to the lack of funds from the well owner. The cost associated with the required plugging of water wells is solely the responsibility of landowners. While most businesses and individual landowners can afford these costs, there are a large number of landowners that cannot. SAWS has seen well plugging costs range from several hundred dollars to several hundred thousand dollars while regulating these activities.

The primary objective of this project was to contract the plugging of abandoned wells for individuals lacking the funds. A concentrated effort was made to investigate areas and identify abandoned wells that are contributing to groundwater and surface water degradation, or are likely to be subjected to contaminants due to their location.

The final objective of this project is to submit legislative recommendations for a permanent statewide funding source legislation that will address abandoned wells in cases where landowners lack the assets to plug their wells.

Description of Project

The project consisted of four primary objectives: plugging of abandoned wells for individuals that could not afford the cost; perform geophysical logs on all wells prior to plugging to ensure their proper closure; collect water samples on a select number of wells; and submit legislative recommendations for a permanent statewide funding source legislation to address abandoned wells in cases where the landowners lack the assets. All of the objectives were carried out simultaneously during the course of the project.

Please contact Jim O’Connor, source water protection specialist, at jim.oconnor@saws.org for more information.

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