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Board weighs fees for wells

By Staff
New regulations take effect July 1
By DAN PARSONS
Staff Writer
After July 1, anyone wanting to dig a drinking-water well in North Carolina will have to obtain a permit from his or her local health department.
In Beaufort County, that permit will cost the owner of the new well $200, health-department officials told the Beaufort County Board of Commissioners on Monday.
The state health department has mandated, beginning in July, all new wells dug to provide drinking water be permitted by local health departments. The law governs all wells dug after July 1 in any of North Carolina’s 100 counties that will provide water for fewer than 12 homes or 24 people.
The state left the local departments to work out a fee schedule for the permitting process. In most cases, that process will require at least four trips to the site by a certified environmental-health specialist, according to Stacey Harris, Beaufort County’s supervisor of environmental health.
Surrounding counties have levied well fees ranging from $200 to $290, he said. The Martin-Tyrrell-Washington District Health Department, after months of haggling between the district’s respective boards of commissioners, settled on a $275 fee for permitting a new well in those three counties.
The sampling kits required to test well water for contaminants cost $57.95 each, Harris said. The remainder of the cost of permitting the wells results from having to send a health-department employee to each new well numerous times. Harris said the cost to the county for permitting a well is about $245, which means the county will be taking a $45 loss with each new well dug.
The health inspector will first have to inspect the area in which the property owner wishes to dig the well to make sure it meets the required setbacks from waterways and other structures. When the well is dug, an inspector will have to return to witness the grouting of the well. A permit must then be issued by the inspector. Within the first 30 days of the well’s operation, the inspector must return to test the water for contaminants, according to the rules.
Harris said few drinking water wells that fall under the new law are dug in Beaufort County. Last year, there were 16 new wells reported to the health department. There were 15 in 2006 and 11 in 2005, he said. Those figures may not tell the whole story because it has never been required that a property owner report digging a new well — that is until the passage of the new law.
With so few wells being dug in Beaufort County, Harris said, his employees have had to travel to neighboring counties to witness well construction. Each employee is required to witness the construction of 10 wells in order to be certified to inspect wells, he said. By July 1, he anticipates having three certified employees including himself. The rest of his staff should be certified by August, he said. The health department will inspect wells on an appointment basis Mondays through Saturdays.
Prior to the passage of the rules, 35 counties in the state had local well ordinances, Harris said. The new rules will establish a standard for well-water safety and for enforcement of violations, he said. Local health departments will report violations of the rules to the N.C. Division of Water Quality, which will handle investigation and enforcement.