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October 26, 2016
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PCCD prepares for water protections

PIKE COUNTY, PA — The Pike County Conservation District (PCCD) board addressed several initiatives related to protecting county water resources during their monthly meeting on February 27.

PCCD executive director Susan Beecher said that discussions have been underway with Pike County’s Marcellus Shale Task Force and the county planning office regarding the development of a groundwater monitoring program to provide baseline data in areas of the county that might be subject to drilling or water resources impacts from drilling in adjacent municipalities.

“We’ve been talking with the United States Geological Survey (USGS) about the possibility of partnering on this effort,” said Beecher. “For any data that we collect to be scientifically defensible, we’d like to have USGS involved in the study.”

PCCD plans to apply for funds from the Scenic Rural Character Preservation (SRCP) program to help in the effort. “Right now, we’re looking at a total project cost of approximately $250,000,” Beecher told the board. “But we’re still trying to work out the details of how many wells, where they’re going to be and what parameters we’ll be testing for. We’d like to get as much of the baseline testing done this year as possible.”

The Pike County Commissioners and PCCD would be co-applicants for the funds. “The commissioners are very supportive of this effort,” said Beecher, who anticipates a grant request of approximately $135,000 or less. USGS would match the funds if approved.

All municipalities in the county will be invited to partner in the study. “They don’t necessarily have to provide financial sponsorship but, if interested, there’s an opportunity for them to do that,” she said. “We’re also talking to some community water suppliers in the county to potentially include them as well sites for the monitoring. We’re looking at a broad array of wells, both commercial and residential.”

The PCCD board unanimously adopted a resolution to seek the funding to support the groundwater monitoring. “I’m 100% for this,” said PCCD board member Peter Helms, who also serves on the SRCP board.

“It’s the only way we’re going to defend the county if there is drilling and if there is pollution,” said county commissioner Richard Caridi.

Beecher also said PCCD is seeking a funding source for approximately $5,500 to add additional water quality monitoring sites to assess the potential impacts of gas transmission lines. In addition to the macroinvertebrate testing and fish surveys that PCCD normally conducts through its Water Quality Monitoring Program, a new section called the Gas Transmission Line Impact Survey has been added.

In response to a request for support from the Delaware Riverkeeper Network regarding its petition to upgrade the Upper and Middle Delaware and associated watershed from its current designation to exceptional value, the board approved a letter explaining its position on the matter.

“We recommend bringing the Delaware River up to exceptional value status, but we would prefer seeing the rest of the watershed to be assessed individually,” said PCCD watershed specialist Lori Colgan.

“The Upper and Middle Delaware River segments that are designated as Wild and Scenic river segments are already designated by the Delaware River Basin Commission (DRBC) as Outstanding Basin Waters, which is akin to Pennsylvania’s Exceptional Value (EV) status,” added Beecher. “The issue we’ve had over the years is that the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection has not followed suit in providing the same special protection water status to those segments of the Delaware River. We think they should be consistent with the DRBC designations.”

“Although all tributaries to the Delaware River in Pike County are already designated either Exceptional Value or High Quality and the upgrading of all Pike County streams to Exceptional Value may well be merited, we believe that it would be prudent to evaluate each tributary stream on its own merits,” the letter concludes.

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