March 2014 - Glen Ayers Helps Safeguard Our Water Supply
Glen Ayers, our Green Hero for March 2014, is a long time Franklin County resident who works as the Regional Health Agent for the Franklin Regional Council of Governments.
Several years ago Glen realized that there was no state-wide system in place to monitor rural ground water quality or to keep track of the location of private drinking water wells. This is essential information for protecting public health and also critically needed for planning purposes. While municipal water supplies are monitored daily, private wells are typically not tested for decades. Even though water is one of our most essential, life-giving substances, it is largely taken for granted.
About two years ago Glen helped with the creation of the MA Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) private well database, called SearchWells, which provides a publicly-accessible framework for tracking private well locations. However, actual well locations are mostly unknown, as licensed well drillers have only been capturing the well's GPS coordinates since about 2007, which is only about 10% of existing wells.
To remedy this situation, Glen has helped to develop a system for local Boards of Health to add well locations to the state-wide database, using a smart phone app. The project is open source, so anyone can sleuth out a well location and pull out their GPS-enabled cell phone to fill in the data gaps. Latitude and longitude are imported into a Google docs spreadsheet that can be sent to DEP.
Now Glen is working with a local group of civic computer hackers to design a database system to track local ground water quality associated with private wells. The new system was successfully tested this February at a “Hackathon” event called Open Data Day, where the hacker team tested the concept and wrote complete user instructions. Glen has a strong belief in citizen scientists and he has prepared an open source water well database management system that can be used to protect the health of people anywhere on Earth.
The Hackathon reconvenes at the end of June to continue working on the project. What will Green Hero, Glen Ayers, come up with to protect the water and health of all life then? Stay tuned, Greenfield's latest Green Hero is thinking about our future health and the health of our children's children.