More ‘source water’ needed to support economic growth

The good news is, the eastern end of Lycoming County is seeing economic growth; the problem is, the capacity to provide water to those businesses and residences isn’t great enough.

So the Lycoming County Water and Sewer Authority is pursuing some solutions by looking for what they call “source water” to supply the demands.

The authority has acquired some infrastructure at the Lycoming Mall and also is looking into other wells and possible use of the Susquehanna River.

To that end, the authority wants to double the water capacity usage at its existing production well at Halls Station, which provides water for its customers, from a 60,000 gallon-a-minute capacity to a 120,000 gallon-a-minute capacity.

The Susquehanna River Basin Commission requires an observation well be used during the process to monitor water quality and quantity of the aquifer during the testing, said Authority Executive Director Christine Weigle.

At Wednesday night’s meeting, the authority awarded a $15,148 contract to Eichelbergers Inc., of Mechanicsburg, to drill and construct the observation well.

Beyond that, the authority would like to use two existing water wells on Lycoming Mall property. The authority approved a $28,000 proposal by Meiser & Earl Inc. hydrogeologists for a preliminary pump test, which is the initial testing of both wells at the mall, to see if that water has potential for public water use.

HRG Engineering was awarded a $5,000 contract to provide support services for source water development.

One of the hangups in the process to find source water for the authority’s customers’ usage is the permitting by the Susquehanna River Basin Commission and the state Department of Environmental Protection is not consistent, Weigle said.

The authority is trying to come up with a plan on how to meet both permitting requirements and the needs of its customers in a timely manner, she said.

While the commission will allow the authority to seek its permitting to use the mall’s wells, the DEP will not allow the option to put the water into a public water system due to the original permit’s designation.

Weigle said if the authority isn’t permitted to acquire additional source water to meet the corridor’s demand, businesses will drill their own wells – which will be unregulated.

Weigle said she understands the need for the permitting process and wants to work proactively with the DEP and the river basin commission to find a solution.

The authority also requested a 3-million-gallon water withdrawal from the Susquehanna River from the DEP. The DEP in turn asked it to prove the need for more water, Weigle said.

William Kelly, deputy director for county planning and community development, said he would like to see the DEP deliver these water well permits as fast as they do for Marcellus Shale natural gas wells. He further emphasized how the county and authority have invested in the infrastructure and doesn’t want to see it all go to waste.

In the meantime, while the capacity to meet water demands is lacking, employers may pass the county by.

“If employers come here and say, ‘we need a great volume of water,’ if we can’t meet that, they won’t come here,” Weigle said. “The only way to support housing needs and economic development is to rely on source water.”