HARRISONBURG, VA. -- Well drilling in Virginia will be more closely regulated beginning this month, but an industry spokesman said the state Department of Health may not have enough sanitarians to enforce the new rules.
The regulations, which went into effect Saturday, require permits for household wells, groundwater source heat pumps, and agriculture and industrial wells. New wells, including monitoring wells, must meet state bacterial water quality standards.
The regulations are designed to give added protection to groundwater and drinking water supplies, said Barbara Mitchell, health department spokeswoman.
The department will issue $25 permits after an evaluation shows the well site meets minimum distance requirements from all known sources of contamination, including septic systems, barnyards, termite-treated structures and sewer lines.
Steve Cain, manager of the Virginia Well Water Association, said the group supports the health objectives of the new regulations. He said most well drillers have been meeting the requirements already.
Cain had concerns, however, about the increased workload on sanitarians who inspect and monitor well drilling for the health department.
The new regulations require that sanitarians be at the drilling site during some phase of the boring and while the hole around the drilling pipe is sealed with cement.
The health department may not have enough sanitarians to enforce the regulations, Cain said.
Mitchell of the health department said, "We have been given some assurances that our environmental staff will not be cut from what we already planned. They're really stressed now."
Drilling could be delayed if an inspector was not available, Cain said. He said he also is concerned that the requirements governing distance from contamination sources will complicate real estate transactions.
"It's conceivable that you could have a quarter-acre piece of land, and because of other things on it, you can't drill a well," he said. "So if a developer has some land that he has divided up into quarter-acre lots and he's going to put wells on there, he's going to have to design the land in such a way that he can fit a well on every one of those lots."
The problem with the regulations, Cain said, is that "most homeowners and potential home buyers, builders and real estate people know absolutely nothing about this."