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How the Safe Drinking Water Act Applies to Class V Wells

Posted on December 03, 2018 by Anthony Cardno, Environmental Instructor

The Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA) requires the United States Environmental Protection Agency (US EPA) to establish regulations protecting underground sources of drinking water (USDW) from contamination caused by the underground disposal, or injection, of fluids.

At 40 CFR 144, the EPA defines six (6) classes of wells subject to differing Underground Injection Control (or UIC) requirements.

What Are Class V Wells?

Class V wells are found in every state and are the class most commonly used by industry and small commercial operators. EPA estimates there are 650,000 Class V wells in operation nationwide.These wells are used to inject non-hazardous fluids underground.

Class V wells can include:
  • Shallow wastewater disposal wells.
  • Stormwater wells.
  • Agriculture drainage systems.
  • Sump and separator systems.
  • Drainage or dry-wells.
  • Septic systems.
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Basic EPA Requirements for Class V Wells

Class V wells are “authorized by rule.” This means that owners and operators of Class V wells may inject certain types of fluids without needing to obtain an individual permit from EPA or their authorized State agency, provided the well owner/operator meets minimum requirements:
  • Injected materials can not threaten or endanger USDWs.
  • Inventory information must be provided to Federal EPA or State agency before commencing injection. This information must include:
    • Facility name and location.
    • Name and address of legal contact.
    • Ownership of facility.
    • Nature and type of injection well(s).
    • Operating status of the injection well.
There may also be additional state-specific reporting requirements for the well owner/operator to take into account.

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What Happens Next?

In response to the inventory submission, the State agency (or EPA) will do one of four things:
  1. Determine that you are “authorized by rule” to inject (meaning your well meets the requirements of some other regulatory program, for instance, the stormwater discharge requirements of 40 CFR 122).
  2. Request you to submit additional information, usually to determine if there is a chance the injected material will negatively impact USDWs.
  3. Require you to obtain a permit, if there’s a concern that your well will endanger USDWs.
  4. Require closure of the well, if the presence of the well is a clear threat to USDWs.
All of the regulations that apply to Class V wells, including rules for proper closure, are found in 40 CFR 144, Subpart G.

Want to know more about Class V wells? EPA has released a twenty-three-volume study,required by a 1997 court case, that looks at twenty-two types of Class V wells and the risks they pose to underground sources of drinking water.  

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