SUMMARY OF PENNSYLVANIAS
WELLHEAD PROTECTION PROGRAM
FOR DRINKING WATER SOURCE PROTECTION
UNDER THE 1996 SAFE DRINKING WATER ACT AMENDMENTS
Wellhead Protection Requirements Under the Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA)
Section 1428 of the Federal Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA) requires that states develop
wellhead protection programs (WHPP) which include seven elements: identify roles and
responsibilities, delineate wellhead protection areas, identify sources of contamination,
develop management approaches, develop contingency plans, plan for new wells, and ensure
public participation in the plan.
EPA has approved 47 state programs as well as programs for two U.S. territories.
Wellhead protection (WHP) is defined in Section 1428 of the SDWA as a comprehensive
program to protect wellhead protection areas (WHPA) from man- induced contaminants which
have an adverse effect on the health of persons.
The SDWA recognizes an approved state WHPP as fulfilling the requirements for
ground-water sources under the Source Water Protection Program.
The Pennsylvania Safe Drinking Water regulations, 25 PA code Ch. 109, direct public
water suppliers to find the best source available and take those measures necessary to
protect that source to provide a continual and safe water supply. The state SDWA
regulations define wellhead protection and wellhead protection areas, set permitting
requirements for ground-water sources, set operations requirement and establish elements
necessary for state approval of local WHP programs.
The Municipal Planning Code and a local government's powers to protect public health and
safety provides authority for local governments to plan and to act to protect water
supplies and the environment. Not all, but many of the WHP management approaches for a
comprehensive local WHP program would require local government action, cooperation or
DEPs Wellhead Protection Program Plan for Pennsylvania
DEP has been actively developing a state WHP program since 1989. Most of these efforts
have focused on encouraging voluntary local program development through education and
incentive grants, formulating technical WHP area delineation strategies and the
establishment of regulations and associated compliance assistance. Local voluntary WHP
programs will continue to be supported and encouraged through technical, compliance and
financial assistance to local communities and public water systems (PWSs).
As of this writing, over 150 PWSs and many more municipalities are developing or
implementing local WHP programs in Pennsylvania. The growing success of wellhead
protection in Pennsylvania is because of the recognition of the common sense and benefits
of planning and pollution prevention in protecting public health and reducing the cost of
DEP has offered various incentive grants to seed local WHP development since 1991. Since
1993, the department has awarded grants totaling over one million dollars to 16 different
counties under this competitive grant program. The county plans provide a multiple
jurisdictional structure for WHPA delineation, management approaches, contingency
planning, new well development and program implementation. These and
other development grants will be offered under the WHPP as funds are available.
The state's Wellhead Protection Program will form the cornerstone of the Source Water
Assessment and Protection Program for ground-water sources serving PWSs.
The focal point of a local WHP program is the WHPA delineation and the resulting map.
The state SDWA regulations define a three-tiered WHPA approach for wells, springs and
infiltration galleries. The delineation of a more rigorous WHPA for an existing PWS source
under a local WHP program will be the decision and responsibility of the water purveyor,
the local municipalities and/or the planning agencies with jurisdiction over the WHPA.
More rigorous WHPA delineations will be done by DEP as resources are available, through a
combination of contracted services and department staff activities.
Key to local WHP program development is public education and participation. A series of
approaches will be developed to educate and involve the public in WHP. These approaches
will be developed and implemented by a combination of contracted services and department
DEP will approve local WHP programs which meet the basic elements set-out in the state
SDWA regulations. DEP will provide data to local WHP programs on state or federally
regulated potential sources of ground-water contamination and will advise them on
approaches for WHPA delineation, conducting contaminant source inventories, public
education programs and management approaches. Existing federal guidelines and
recommendations will be utilized for the program and guidance will be developed only if a
The principles of the Comprehensive State Ground Water Protection Program will be
applied to coordinate point and non-point source pollution prevention programs with the
local WHP programs.
Proposed Uses for SDWA State Revolving Fund Set-Aside Funds
Contracts for delineation of WHPA and assessments of PWS sources through 2001.
Additional DEP field and central office staff and fixed assets to support WHPA
delineations, assessments and management plan development, and to support public
participation and public promotion of these activities.
Grants for the development and implementation of local WHP programs.