CHAMPAIGN — Area government agencies on Wednesday officially started the Mahomet Aquifer on the path toward federal protection.
Officials have submitted an application to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency asking that it be designated as a "sole-source aquifer."  If the application is approved, the Mahomet Aquifer would be the only one in the state with such protection.
The "sole-source" designation would add a layer of review to any federally-funded project over the aquifer to ensure that the above-ground project will not affect the below-ground water source.
To receive "sole-source" status, officials need to prove that an aquifer provides at least 50 percent of the drinking water for a given region. A groundwater hydrologist consulting the city on the matter said the aquifer is the source of nearly 100 percent of the drinking water for more than 700,000 residents in East Central Illinois.
The EPA review process will take at least six months, according to a press release from the city. Input will be sought from the public.
The coalition splitting the estimated $55,000 cost of the petition includes cities of Champaign, Urbana, Delavan, and Gilman; the town of Normal; the villages of Savoy, Mahomet, and Mansfield; and the University of Illinois.