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Private well survey and database planned in PA


October 26, 2011

In preparation for natural gas extraction and its potential impacts and opportunities, a session on methane migration was hosted by the Wayne County Oil and Gas Task Force on October 18 in Honesdale.

During his presentation, licensed professional geologist Brian Oram announced that a private well owner and watershed survey would be conducted to obtain information on regional concerns related to development of the Marcellus Shale.

Oram is the owner of BF Environmental Consultants, Inc. of Dallas, PA and former director of the Center for Environmental Quality at Wilkes University, where he oversaw production of a free publication on private well water testing (www.bfenvironmental.com/pdfs/Waterbooklet070610.pdf).

Oram opened his presentation with a plea to move beyond the division created by supporters and opponents of gas drilling and to focus on “understanding the risks” and testing private wells now. “It’s the match of the century,” Oram said. “Which side are we on? That’s the mindset that’s causing us problems.”

The primary risk Oram points to is the fact that nearly half of the private wells tested in Pennsylvania don’t meet the drinking water standards established by the EPA. Typical problems include corrosion, copper, lead, iron, manganese and methane, according to Oram.

“For 23 years, I’ve been encouraging private owners to test their water,” he said. “Maybe five percent do. It took an industry to come to town to get people to think about the quality of their own drinking water and to get it tested.”
Oram also discussed the Citizen Groundwater Database established at Wilkes University
(www.wilkes.edu/pages/4197.asp).

The regional database provides a central location to store baseline pre-drilling and/or post-drilling water quality data in order to document quality by geological formation, identify existing regional issues or concerns and provide an unbiased community resource as well as a mechanism to track temporal,
spatial and other geospatial variations in water quality.