Residents of St. Joseph County obtain their drinking water from our abundant supply of groundwater. Groundwater in many areas of the County are susceptible to contamination due to the soil type which can allow contaminants to move easily through groundwater. The protection of our groundwater is key to providing good quality drinking water to residents and ensuring our community remains a desirable place to live and work.

Under County Code 52, The Health Department protects groundwater in areas where large volumes of water are pumped to supply drinking water to cities and towns. These areas are called Wellhead Protection Areas (WHPAs). Any business that is located within a WHPA and poses a threat to groundwater is required to be permitted and inspected. The Health Department also responds to spills, however, the Wellhead Protection Program focuses on preventing contamination of our groundwater rather than cleaning it up.

Do I need a WHP permit?
If a business is near a public water well or large water tower, there is a good chance it is in a WHPA. If you do not know if your business is in a WHPA, contact your local public water system or the Health Department to find out for sure.

Generally, if your business is within a WHPA and you have drywells, petroleum products or any of the threats mentioned below, you may need to obtain a permit. However, there are exclusions, exceptions, and special conditions that may affect whether you need a permit. Even if a business is not required to obtain a permit, it is still subject to inspections and must report spills of hazardous materials to the Health Department.

What is a threat to groundwater?
The following threats have the potential to contaminate and impact groundwater:

  • Drywell/Retention Basin
  • Surface Impoundment
  • Above Ground Storage Tanks
  • Outdoor Storage Area
  • Underground Storage Tanks
  • Motor Vehicle Waste Recovery Well
  • Container Storage Areas
  • Improperly Abandoned Well
  • Oil/Water Separator
  • Motor Vehicle Storage/Salvage Yard
  • Waste Pile
  • Major Construction Site
  • Rail or Truck Loading Facility
  • Other Threats as Determined

How Do I Obtain a WHP Permit?
Any business that is located within a WHPA that poses a threat to groundwater must submit a permit application to the Health Department. The application includes a number of questions about what hazardous or regulated materials are present on site and how the business prevents contaminants from getting into the groundwater. A permit fee must be submitted with the application.

An Environmental Health Specialist will review the application, conduct a thorough site inspection and if needed, work with the business to develop ways to manage threats to the groundwater. After a permit is issued, routine inspections are performed. If you have any questions, need information, or need help in preparing a permit application, contact the Health Department at [email protected] or (574) 235-9721.