County may apply for grant to test private water wells

Certain Lycoming County residents may have an opportunity to voluntarily participate in a baseline water quality data program in which their private water wells can be tested at no cost to them.

The Lycoming County commissioners may approve a $250,000 grant application, whose funds would come from the Marcellus Legacy fund, part of Act 13. The grant would support a countywide groundwater quality monitoring project to establish a baseline for groundwater quality data for private water supplies.

After the commissioners approve the application, and if the state approves the grant, the project should begin early next year.

The county aims at testing 70 private, domestic water wells across the county to establish a baseline in hopes that if the quality changes in the future, it would be possible to identify the cause and source, said Mila Robinson, county environmental planner. The program will include the state Department of Environmental Protection’s recommended basic oil and gas pre-drill parameters.

The estimated cost of the project is $342,000, and the county, U.S. Geological Survey, Geisinger Health, Susquehanna Health and the West Branch Regional Authority are funding the $92,000 gap between the grant and the cost remainder. The county is committing $10,000 as part of the local match.

All samples collected will be analyzed by a state accredited laboratory using Environmental Protection Agency-approved drinking water methods. The USGS has agreed to manage the program, including reconnaissance with well owners, monitoring network design, sampling activities and database management. The county will oversee the project’s timely completion and meets grant guidelines.

The commissioners originally aimed at providing a water quality snapshot of every major watershed in the county, but due to funding constraints, narrowed it down to private water wells and groundwater.

“It’s not the responsibility of the county to sample and analyze water, it’s what DEP does, but we decided to get involved because we have interest in the well-being of our residents,” Robinson said, adding it’s possible thanks to multiple partners and available funding.

The county hopes to reapply for the grant in the future to continue the project, but it’s dependent upon available funding at that time, Robinson said.

The commissioners also may approve two contracts through the planning department to sell nutrient credits to two sewer plants: West Branch Regional Authority, which serves the Muncy and Montgomery areas, and the Tiadaghton Valley Municipal Authority, which serves the Jersey Shore area.