Wellhead Protection Program


The Wellhead Protection Program was established to protect public water systems using ground water from contamination. This program has an emphasis on the prevention of ground water contamination due to the difficulty in cleaning up the contamination once it occurs. These drinking water sources are vulnerable to a variety of contaminant sources such as industrial spills, shallow underground injection discharges {referred to by EPA as class V (5) wells} through wells, floor drains and septic tanks, leaks from underground storage tanks, etc.

Much of ground water contamination stems from the misuse and improper disposal of liquid and solid wastes; the illegal dumping or abandonment of household, commercial, or industrial chemicals; the accidental spilling of chemicals from trucks, railways, aircraft, handling facilities, and storage tanks; or the improper siting, design, construction, operation, or maintenance of liquid and solid waste disposal facilities (see Table 1 and 2). Generally, when the potential sources are used and managed properly, ground water contamination is not likely to occur.

More than 89 percent of U. S. public water supply systems draw some or all of their drinking water from sources found underground in rock, sand or gravel. Over one-third of Tennessee’s citizens are served by public water systems relying on ground water.

Tennessee's Wellhead Protection Program requires the cooperation of state and local government, private industry and the general public. The official designation of wellhead protection areas provides valuable input and emphasis to government agencies in the siting of facilities and the prioritization and cleanup of contamination sites.

Wellhead protection makes good business sense. It is in an industry’s best interest to pay attention to good housekeeping practices if they are located within a wellhead protection area. Substantial spills or leaks from an industry’s sloppy housekeeping practices within a wellhead protection area could contaminate a public water supply and subject the owner/operator of the facility to both state and federal enforcement action. Enforcement action can include heavy fines, the cost of the ground water cleanup and paying for additional treatment and monitoring for the water system.


Facilities in wellhead protection areas that store or handle hazardous substances {such as heavy industrial plants, dry cleaners, gas stations, auto repair workshops, and transportation facilities such as trucking, railroad, bus depots and airports} need to be aware of the potential to contaminant water systems and strictly comply with all regulatory requirements. They should also be encouraged to implement best management practices.

EPA is undertaking an initiative to focus on class V wells in wellhead protection areas. Since these wells place fluids directly into the ground water, they are a sizeable threat to water supplies. The threat to ground water from Class V practices can be significantly reduced by the utilization of best management practices and careful monitoring at permitted facilities within wellhead protection areas.

For additional information you can contact the Tennessee Division of Water Resources at (615) 532-0191, visit the Department’s website or call the toll free Statewide Environmental Assistance Center number: 1-888-891-8332

Table 1 - Sources of Ground Water Contamination

Designed to Discharge
  • Septic tanks
  • Injection wells
  • Dry wells
  • Non-hazardous waste
  • Cooling waters
  • Stormwater runoff
  • Hazardous waste
  • Agricultural drainage
  • Automobile service station disposal
  • Industrial process water
  • Land application
  • Wastewater (spray irrigation) & wastewater (sludge)
    hazardous waste & nonhazardous waste
    petroleum refining waste
Designed to Store Treat and/or Dispose
(Discharge through unplanned release)
  • Landfills - Industrial hazardous and nonhazardous; municipal sanitary
  • Open dumps
  • Surface Impoundments - hazardous, nonhazardous; animal waste lagoons
  • Waste tailings and piles, hazardous and nonhazardous
  • Materials stockpiles; hazardous and nonhazardous waste, non-waste
  • Under and Above-ground storage tanks - hazardous, nonhazardous & non-waste
  • Containers (drums) - hazardous, nonhazardous & non-waste
  • Open burning sites, detonation sites
  • Radioactive disposal sites

Designed to Retain Substances during Transport or Transmission
  • Pipelines
    hazardous, nonhazardous and non-waste; sewers
  • Materials transport and Transfer Operations
    hazardous and nonhazardous
Discharging as Consequences of Other Activities
  • Irrigation practice
  • Application - Pesticide, Fertilizer & De-icing salts
  • Animal feedlot operations
  • Urban runoff
  • Mining and mine drainage
  • Cemeteries
  • Spills and leaks from manufacturing operations
Providing Conduit or Inducing Discharge through Altered Flow Patterns
  • Modified Sinkholes
  • Production Wells
  • Oil and Gas
  • Geothermal/heat pump
  • Recovery
  • Water Supply - drinking, commercial or industrial


Table 2 - Potentially Harmful Components of Common (Household) Products

Product Toxic or Hazardous Components
Antifreeze (gasoline or coolant systems) Methanol, ethylene glycol
Automatic transmission fluid Petroleum distillates, xylene
Battery acid (electrolyte) Sulfuric acid
Degreasers for driveways and garages Petroleum solvents, alcohols, glycol ether
Degreasers for engines and metal Chlorinated hydrocarbons, toluene, phenols, dichloroperchloroethylene
Engine and radiator flushes Petroleum solvents, ketones, butanol, glycol ether
Hydraulic fluid (brake fluid) Hydrocarbons, fluorocarbons
Motor oils and waste oils Hydrocarbons
Gasoline and jet fuels Hydrocarbons
Diesel fuel, kerosene, #2 heating oil Hydrocarbons
Grease, lubes Hydrocarbons
Rustproofers Phenols, heavy metals
Car wash detergents Alkyl benzene sulfonates
Car waxes and polishes Petroleum distillates, hydrocarbons
Asphalt and roofing tar Hydrocarbons
Paints, varnishes, stains and dyes Heavy metals, toluene
Paint and lacquer thinner Acetone, benzene, toluene, butyl acetate, methyl ketones
Paint and varnish removers, deglossers Methylene chloride, toluene, acetone, xylene, ethanol, benzene, methanol
Paint brush cleaners Hydrocarbons, toluene, acetone, methanol, glycol ethers, methyl ethyl ketones
Floor and furniture strippers Xylene
Metal polishes Petroleum distillates, isopropanol, petroleum naphtha
Laundry soil and stain removers Hydrocarbons, benzene, trichloroethylene, 1,1,1-trichloroethane
Other solvents Acetone, benzene
Rock salt Sodium concentration
Refrigerants 1,1,2-trichloro-1,2,2-trifluoroethane
Bug and tar removers Xylene, petroleum distillates
Household cleansers, oven cleaners Xylenols, glycol ethers, isopropanol
Drain cleaners 1,1,1-trichloroethane
Toilet cleaners Xylene, sulfonates, chlorinated phenols
Cesspool cleaners Tetrachloroethylene, dichlorobenzene, methylene chloride
Disinfectants Cresol, xylenols
Pesticides (all types) Naphthalene, phosphorous, xylene, chloroform, heavy metals, chlorinated hydrocarbons
Photochemicals Phenols, sodium sulfite, cyanide, silver halide, potassium bromide
Printing ink Heavy metals, phenol-formaldehyde
Wood preservatives (creosote) Pentachlorophenols
Swimming pool chlorine Sodium hypochlorite
Lye or caustic soda Sodium hydroxide
Jewelry cleaners Sodium cyanide