New wells to monitor water contamination
Published: Wednesday, August 29, 2012
Updated: Wednesday, August 29, 2012 21:08
Local hydrogeologists will be able to learn more about water contamination levels in the Delaware area with the installation of eight new monitoring wells in New Castle and Kent counties.
The new wells are the first built since 1977 and Scott Andres, a hydrogeologist and senior scientist at the Delaware Geological Survey, said the information gathered will be more informative than previous water-monitoring efforts.
“[Snapshot studies] uncovered some potential problems,” Andres said. “We hope to improve the information base so we could pass that back-of-the-envelope type style of science to more quantitative and predictive ways of evaluating water supply.”
Because groundwater is the primary source of drinking water in Delaware, Andres said the state of the water is critical for human consumption. He said approximately 32 wells may be drilled over the next three years in New Castle and Kent counties into underground rocks in which groundwater can be extracted.
Andres said the project began in 2008 after the water supply coordinating council said available water resource data for southern New Castle and northern Kent counties should be recollected. The state appropriated $600,000 to fix the lack of monitoring infrastructure for water resources in Delaware.
Junior Lynn Walter, an Ecology and Wildlife Conservation major, said she has seen the consequences of lax environmental monitoring through her work with a wetlands restoration project near Wilmington, an area highly polluted by waste runoff.
“I think the premise behind the project is great,” Walter said. “Monitoring groundwater should make determining water quality easier with more samples to work with, and if there are any trace amounts of pollution detected then it should be easier to stop contaminants from spreading.”
Andres said the DGS project differs from past monitoring projects in its collective and monitoring efforts. After the wells’ construction, monitoring water pressure and concentrations of contaminants, like arsenic and disinfection byproducts, can continue for decades.
The wells will provide more data than prior attempts due to their broader distribution, which Andres said provides a more complete view of how much water is available underground, its direction of travel and where contaminants are being introduced. The project will also geographically expand how Delaware’s water resources are handled.
“I look at it as, ‘are we in the ballpark?’ That’s where we are now,” Andres said. “We want to get down to the infield and get a better idea of what’s going on,”
The project provides an opportunity to increase awareness about water resources and the environment’s essential impact on the quality of living. Some university students recognize the importance of keeping water resources free of contamination and support the Delaware Geographical Survey’s project to monitor groundwater.
Senior Daniel Schwam said his background in the Delaware Environmental Institute Student Programs Committee helps him understand the importance of monitoring contamination in groundwater.
“I feel that a project along these lines could significantly improve the quality of drinking water for Delaware’s residents,” Schwam said.
Andres said DGS research is taking care to ensure their methods will not cause additional contamination or loss of a water resource. Although this cannot be guaranteed, he said it is a necessary risk for true data.