(1)Groundwater is a critical natural resource providing domestic, industrial, and agricultural water supply; and other legitimate beneficial uses; and also providing base flow for rivers, lakes, streams, and wetlands.
(2)Groundwater, once polluted, is difficult and sometimes impossible to clean up. Therefore, the EQC shall employ an anti-degradation policy to emphasize the prevention of groundwater pollution, and to control waste discharges to groundwater so that the highest possible water quality is maintained.
(3)All groundwaters of the state shall be protected from pollution that could impair existing or potential beneficial uses for which the natural water quality of the groundwater is adequate. Among the recognized beneficial uses of groundwater, domestic water supply is recognized as being the use that would usually require the highest level of water quality. Existing high quality groundwaters which exceed those levels necessary to support recognized and legitimate beneficial uses shall be maintained except as provided for in these rules.
(4)Numerical groundwater quality reference levels and guidance levels are listed in Tables 1 through 3 of this Division. [Note: View a PDF of the tables by clicking on the “Tables” link that follows this rule.] These levels have been obtained from the Safe Drinking Water Act, and indicate when groundwater may not be suitable for human consumption or when the aesthetic quality of groundwater may be impaired. They will be used by the Department and the public to evaluate the significance of a particular contaminant concentration, and will trigger necessary regulatory action. These levels should not be construed as acceptable groundwater quality goals because it is the policy of the EQC to maintain and preserve the highest possible water quality.
(5)For pollutant parameters for which numerical groundwater quality reference levels or guidance levels have not been established, or for evaluating adverse impacts on beneficial uses other than human consumption, the Department shall make use of the most current and scientifically valid information available in determining at what levels pollutants may affect present or potential beneficial uses. Such information shall include, but not be limited to, values set forth in OAR 340-041-0033 (Toxic Substances).
(6)The Department shall develop, implement and conduct a comprehensive groundwater quality protection program. The program shall contain strategies and methods for problem prevention, problem abatement and the control of both point and nonpoint sources of groundwater pollution. The Department shall seek the assistance of federal, state, and local governments in implementing the program.
(7)In order to assure maximum reasonable protection of public health, the public shall be informed that groundwater, and most particularly local flow systems or water table aquifers, may not be suitable for human consumption due either to natural or human-caused pollution problems, and shall not be assumed to be safe for domestic use unless quality testing demonstrates a safe supply. The Department shall work cooperatively with the Water Resources Department and the Health Division in identifying areas where groundwater pollution may affect beneficial uses.
(8)It is the policy of the EQC that groundwater quality be protected throughout the state. The Department will concentrate its groundwater quality protection implementation efforts in areas where practices and activities have the greatest potential for degrading groundwater quality, and where potential groundwater quality pollution would have the greatest adverse impact on beneficial uses.
(9)The Department, as lead agency for groundwater quality protection, shall work cooperatively with the Water Resources Department, the lead agency for groundwater quantity management, to characterize the physical and chemical characteristics of the aquifers of the state. The Department will seek the assistance and cooperation of the Water Resources Department to design an ambient monitoring program adequate to determine representative groundwater quality for significant groundwater flow systems. The Department shall assist and cooperate with the Water Resources Department in its groundwater studies. The Department shall also seek the advice, assistance, and cooperation of local, state, and federal agencies to identify and resolve ground-water quality problems.
(10)It is the intent of the EQC to see that groundwater problems associated with area-wide on-site sewage disposal are corrected by developing and implementing area-wide abatement plans. In order to accomplish this, all available and appropriate statutory and administrative authorities will be utilized, including but not limited to: permits, special permit conditions, penalties, fines, EQC orders, compliance schedules, moratoriums, Department orders, and geographic area rules (OAR 340-071-0400 (Geographic Area Special Considerations.)). It is recognized, however, that in some cases the identification, evaluation and implementation of abatement measures may take time and that continued degradation may occur while the plan is being developed and implemented. The EQC may allow short-term continued degradation only if the beneficial uses, public health, and groundwater resources are not significantly affected, and only if the approved abatement plan is being implemented on a schedule approved by the Department.
(11)In order to minimize groundwater quality degradation potentially resulting from point source activities, point sources shall employ the highest and best practicable methods to prevent the movement of pollutants to groundwater. Among other factors, available technologies for treatment and waste reduction, cost effectiveness, site characteristics, pollutant toxicity and persistence, and state and federal regulations shall be considered in arriving at a case-by-case determination of highest and best practicable methods that protect public health and the environment.
(12)In regulating point source activities that could result in the disposal of wastes onto or into the ground in a manner which allows potential movement of pollutants to groundwater, the Department shall utilize all available and appropriate statutory and administrative authorities, including but not limited to: permits, fines, EQC orders, compliance schedules, moratoriums, Department orders, and geographic area rules. Groundwater quality protection requirements shall be implemented through the Department’s Water Pollution Control Program, Solid Waste Disposal Program, On-Site Sewage Disposal System Construction Program, Hazardous Waste Facility (RCRA) Program, Underground Injection Control Program, Emergency Spill Response Program, or other programs, whichever is appropriate.
Rule 340-040-0020 — General Policies,