Georgia authorities are looking into building an underground Aquifer Storage and Recovery (ASR) well in Baker County according to a report by GPB. The hope is that the well will provide relief to rivers during dry periods, but some environmentalists worry that it could threaten water quality.
Around 1,200 ASR wells and Aquifer Recharge (AR) wells are operating or capable of operation in the United States today. The majority of these wells are located in the Southwest (around 753), but a good number are also located in the Southeast (around 145). The Northeast has the fewest. Here’s an EPA webpage with the numbers and more.
That EPA webpage explains that ASR and AR wells are Class V Injection Wells, which are wells built for, as the name suggests, injecting fluids underground. The injection of these fluids can cause arsenic and radionuclides to leach from surrounding geologic formations. As to what can be injected into these wells, the EPA explains:
As of 2007, nine states require that water used for ASR injection be potable water or drinking water treated to national or state Drinking Water Standards or state ground water standards. Potable water is defined differently in each state but generally refers to water that is high quality and poses no immediate or long term health risk when consumed. Some … states allow additional types of water to be used in ASR, including treated effluent, untreated surface and ground water, reclaimed water subject to state recycled water criteria, or “any” injectate.
Federal law does, nevertheless, prohibit “the movement of fluid containing any contaminant into underground sources of drinking water.”
In Georgia, injection wells are regulated by Rule 391-3-6-.13. That rule prohibits the operation of any injection well:
in a manner that allows the movement of fluid containing any contaminant into underground sources of drinking water, if the presence of that contaminant may cause a violation of any primary drinking water regulation under Georgia’s Rules for Safe Drinking Water, Chapter 391-3-5, or may otherwise adversely affect the health of persons. (Rule 391-3-6-.13(5)(a)).
The rule further states, specifically mentioning Class V wells, that:
No person shall be issued a permit to operate a Class V well where the movement of fluid, in the judgment of the Director, may cause a violation of any primary drinking water rule under the Georgia Rules for Safe Drinking Water, Chapter 391-3-5, or which may adversely affect the health of persons. (Rule 391-3-6-.13(11)(f)).
So to conclude, I’m comforted to know that Georgia doesn’t allow “‘any’ injectate.”