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Thursday, November 10, 2016

Potter County: Two Major Water Protection Projects Moving Forward

A research project of historic proportions and the first-ever countywide monitoring of public drinking water sources are both on the plate of the Triple Divide Watershed Coalition. Members moved forward on each of the lofty projects during Wednesday’s quarterly meeting at the Gunzburger Building in Coudersport. Mark Stephens, a geologist from the Pa. Dept. of Environmental Protection (DEP), attended to advise TDWC members on logistics. A state grant has been approved to cover the bulk of expenses in a detailed groundwater study across Potter County. When it’s concluded, a database will be available that details where much of the county’s groundwater comes from, as well as its characteristics and movement patterns. The information will be invaluable for public policy-makers, certain industries, regulatory agencies and many others. Through the testing of more than 60 water wells in strategic locations, the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) will be able to amass and share detailed data.

“This will be an extremely valuable tool for protecting our water when we’re choosing sites for certain types of development,” said John McLaughlin, TDWC chairman. “There is much we simply do not know about our ground water supplies, movements, and other characteristics.” Well data will be assembled and analyzed in a cumulative fashion, with the identity of individual well owners protected. Confidential findings from the analysis will be provided to each owner. Groundwater can contain a variety of suspended and dissolved substances such as bacteria, minerals and gases. These substances are often naturally occurring, but can also be influenced by activities occurring on the land surface. A comprehensive list of water quality parameters will be analyzed for each well.

Meanwhile, the coalition has been designated to administer a $100,000 payment from JKLM Energy to cover installation of 24/7 monitors on the 11 public water systems in Potter County. Each of the system operators is a member of TDWC. Monitors will log water quality data and serve as an early-warning system in the event of contamination. JKLM paid the $100,000 as part of a settlement with DEP for illegally using a drilling surfactant that migrated into the groundwater via subsurface fractures at a shale gas well pad off North Hollow Road in September 2015.