Sole source

  The EPA may grant special protection status to an aquifer that covers 14,000 square miles in eastern Washington and portions of western Idaho. A local environmental group, the Palouse-Clearwater Environmental Institute, petitioned the agency in 1992 to designate the Eastern Columbia Plateau aquifer as the "sole source" of drinking water for the area. The EPA agreed with the group that if the groundwater system became contaminated, 260,000 people who depend on it for drinking water would have no alternative supply. If the agency follows through with the formal designation, any project receiving federal funding would be reviewed to check whether it posed a threat to groundwater quality. A massive regional landfill proposed for Adams County, Wash., would not be directly affected because it is privately funded, says Tom Lamar, Palouse-Clearwater's executive director. But the aquifer designation would cause a state review of the landfill (HCN, 5/7/94). For more information or to send in comments by Oct. 14, contact Scott Downey, EPA (WD-133), 1200 Sixth Ave., Seattle, WA 98101 (800/424-4372).