You’ve probably seen “Drinking Water Supply Area, Spill Response Call 911” or “Water Supply Area” signs throughout the Lehigh Valley area and beyond. In fact, LCA recently teamed up with the Wildlands Conservancy, Lehigh County Conservation District, Upper Milford Township, Lower Macungie Township, Allentown and Emmaus to install signs throughout Lehigh County.
The signs designate areas where water runoff flows into watersheds — the places that supply drinking water. In LCA’s supply area, this includes the Lehigh River, Little Lehigh Creek, and surrounding aquifers. The signs are a part of initiatives by Pennsylvania Source Water Protection, Water Resources Education Network, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, and the state Department of Environmental Protection to increase awareness of watersheds and the dangers posed by hazardous materials and other pollutants entering these water supply areas.
Accidents that result in a spill of hazardous materials — including gas, oil, diesel, antifreeze, and other chemicals — mean that those pollutants will likely end up in the watershed if they’re not cleaned up quickly and properly by trained emergency personnel. Road crews must also take care when applying de-icing materials to these roads, because stormwater can wash those materials into the watershed as well.
Another part of the initiatives involves “Making residents and businesses aware that their property lies within the wellfield protection area or near a water supply intake is an important component of source water protection,” according to Pennsylvania Source Water Protection. That means property owners must ensure that septic systems are well maintained, fertilizer is applied properly (and sparingly) to crops and lawns, and that hazardous materials are stored safely.
To learn more about watershed protection programs and see examples of educational postcards and signs, visit the Water Resources Education Network.