Town of Black Mountain

Forging the Way for Wellhead Protection: Black Mountain, North Carolina

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Acting Entity: Land-of-Sky
Council of Governments
Contact Person: Bill Eaker
Cost: $44,500
Population Served: 6,450

Water Supply: Groundwater, Town of Black Mountain
PWS ID: 0201020

Helping Organizations:
·Town of Black Mountain
· US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Region 4
· NC Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), Groundwater Section
· University of North Carolina Asheville
· NC Rural Water Association
· NC Department of Transportation (NCDOT)
· Z. Smith Reynolds Foundation

Funding Sources:
· Z. Smith Reynolds Foundation
· US EPA, Region 4
· NC DENR Groundwater Section

Features:
· First groundwater project for Land-of-Sky Council of Governments (COG)
· Received significant public support
· Led to first approved Wellhead Protection Plan/Program in NC
· Led to first Wellhead Protection overlay district in NC
· Eliminated illegal dumping sites
· Included comprehensive public education program
· Protected Black Mountain's water source from future contamination due development
· Received assistance from NCDOT.

Summary: The Land-of-Sky COG worked with the Town of Black Mountain to establish a well-researched and effective Wellhead Protection Program. The national Wellhead Protection Program was introduced as part of the Safe Drinking Water Act of 1986, but this project was one of North Carolina's first attempts to implement Wellhead Protection. Even though the Town of Black Mountain had no current problems with their groundwater supply, town officials recognized that a Wellhead Protection Plan was an intelligent preventative measure that would preclude contamination. The Land-of-Sky COG was particularly interested in implementing a wellhead project, as it had been involved with surface water protection, but no groundwater protection efforts. It was also interested in developing a model for other communities in Western North Carolina.

The COG was able to secure $9,500 from the NC DENR, Groundwater Section to initiate a pilot program of the state's new wellhead program in western North Carolina. Land-of-Sky COG selected Black Mountain for this pilot and the town agreed to participate. Then the DENR Wellhead Protection Program representatives trained Town officials in wellhead protection and an intern was secured from the University of North Carolina Asheville to assist with the project.

With the help of the NC Rural Water Association, the team began to delineate the four Wellhead Protection Areas (WHPAs) using a low cost and technologically simple method called the Calculated Fixed Radius Method. The team then conducted a thorough investigation of possible contamination sources within the delineated areas using aerial photographs, existing public agency databases, windshield surveys and interviews with state and local officials about existing and possible threats.

Portions of the delineated areas were undeveloped, raising future development as a concern. Should new development occur in Wellhead Protection Areas, the wells would be vulnerable to contamination from activities at the newly developed facilities such as gas stations. Two of the four WHPAs were located in areas outside the limits of the town's zoning authority. Illegal dumping sites were also located within delineated protection areas during this process, but were removed when the parties responsible were identified and informed. A Wellhead Protection Plan was then developed outlining protection measures.

The implementation of this project was partially funded by the Town of Black Mountain and grants from Z. Smith Reynolds ($20,000) and the US EPA Region 4 ($10,000). Public education served an important role in the success of this project. Brochures about wellhead protection were given out to the public, the media was involved, town water was given away at local events, and Wellhead Protection Area signs were erected along roads at the boundaries of the WHPAs. NCDOT was supportive in this effort and even adopted the policy of erecting "Water Supply Area" signs at boundaries along state highways, as well as instructional signs stating "Spill Response Dial 911" in case of accidental highway chemical spills.

The latest step in the Black Mountain Wellhead Protection Project was the town planning department's proposal and Town Board's adoption of an overlay district within the zoning ordinance that would restrict or regulate any activities affecting water quality. Portions of the delineated WHPAs were still undeveloped, so officials in the Town's Planning Department felt it was important to create this overlay district, and the Black Mountain Town Council was very supportive of the project as well. Currently, the overlay district encompasses the two WHPAs within town limits, but efforts are underway to extend the district to include the other two WHPAs.  The provisions of the overlay district also apply to any area outside Black Mountain wishing to use their water.

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