Groundwater analysis program launch set

The Lycoming County commissioners will vote to award a contract to Seewald Laboratories Inc. Thursday for groundwater analysis work, in conjunction with the rollout of the county’s Baseline Groundwater Quality Monitoring Program, county Planning and Community Development Deputy Director Bill Kelly said Tuesday.

The county will receive $250,000 in gas impact fee drilling funds toward a countywide groundwater sampling project that will assess the quality of groundwater being drawn from wells within the county, and what – if any – effect well-drilling has on public water supply sources.

“Groundwater” is defined as water underground in soil and fractures of rock formations, which then flows back up to the surface in the form of springs, pools or wetlands, and also can be extracted through wells.

The impetus for the groundwater study was, in part, a 2011 sampling and analysis study in the Lycoming Creek watershed conducted by the Williamsport Municipal Water Authority and the U.S. Geological Survey, which was done to help develop a “methodology for monitoring the WMWA’s water supplies relative to … extensive land use changes,” according to a 2012 report compiled by the county on the impacts of Marcellus Shale industry on water, sewer and stormwater infrastructure.

Once identified, a monitoring process could be “exported throughout Lycoming County” in order to establish existing water quality conditions and serve as a reference for any concerns regarding potential impacts by gas drilling activities, specifically in the watersheds of Larrys, Pine, Loyalsock and Muncy Creeks townships, according to the report.ohio

However, the report determined that a “diligent” countywide process of water quality monitoring was lacking, and recommended that the county “design and implement” such a program as soon as possible. Working with the state Department of Environmental Protection, the Susquehanna River Basin Commission, the U.S. Geological Survey and others, the program being rolled out Thursday is part of establishing that program.

Beginning this summer, samples will be taken from 72 randomly selected, privately-owned wells in the county and analyzed by Seewald, in order to establish a baseline level of water quality in the county.

Kelly said he was “very pleased” that the local, family-owned company – celebrating its 75th anniversary this year – was the one recommended by a team made up of project members, including some from the U.S. Geological Survey, that visited each of the five labs that submitted bids last week.

The official announcement of the project will be held at the next county commissioners meeting, 10 a.m. Thursday, at the Pine Street Executive Plaza, 330 Pine St.