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December 02, 2016
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Private well survey and database planned in PA

Data from 320 private wells in Luzerne County, secured with a full chain of custody and third party testing, is already stored. “Forty-nine percent of the wells tested in Luzerne County violated the drinking water standard for total coliform bacteria,” he said. “Twenty-five percent had elevated lead; 10% of the population is drinking water contaminated with e coli. Some private wells contain pthalates (plasticizers), which can cause gastrointestinal problems and are suspected endocrine disruptors and carcinogens.”

Oram is a passionate advocate for the establishment of well construction standards, and an active critic of “what PA has allowed to happen to the private well program” by not implementing such standards. Pennsylvania is one of two states without construction standards, according to Oram. The other is Alaska.

Wells with problems such as bacterial or viral contamination are conduits for contamination of aquifers, Oram added. “We need to fix those. These are the vulnerable points in our communities.” Water can also move along casings and contaminate the groundwater aquifer, he said.

Oram urged audience members to get baseline testing done now. “Spend what you can afford,” he said. “There’s a list of recommended DEP parameters which runs about $400.” If doing baseline testing, he recommends adding tests for methane, ethane and propane.

BF Environmental’s Private Well Owner Survey seeks information on regional concerns related to Marcellus Shale and other non-point sources of pollution. The survey also aims to gauge support for a construction standard for new private wells, and to find out if citizens would test their water once a year if it only cost about $50.

The company is also absorbing the costs for free radon testing for 200 private wells to explore “how a migration event could occur if it may be related to a Marcellus Shale activity.” The web-based survey (www.surveymonkey.com/s/NMG6RQ3can) can be filled out online or mailed in. The company also offers baseline testing related to Marcellus Shale development and has recommended testing packages that are region specific.

Oram urged local leadership to use the results of such testing to inform decision-making, support solutions that fix problematic private wells and develop a community support program where citizens can call and get answers.