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Crowded Agenda For Water Quality Work Group

August 18th, 2017

Members of the Potter County Water Quality Work Group held their bimonthly meeting in the Gunzburger Building this week with a crowded agenda chock-full of developments involving water resources across the county. Bob Volkmar of Roulette presented a troubling report on water quality testing taking place this summer and fall on 10 tributaries of Oswayo Creek. Samples from Horse Run, Honeoye Creek, Raub Run and Oswayo Creek itself near the state border in Ceres, showed elevated levels of strontium, sodium, bromide and chloride. Volkmar, an officer with Trout Unlimited and the Upper Allegheny Watershed Assn., speculated that the contaminants could stem from oil or gas drilling that might date back several decades. Use of pesticides and other farming practices could be also be a cause, or there could be multiple legacy trash dumps across the region, Volkmar noted. He said the streams will continue to be tested to create an expanded database. In the meantime, Justin Boatwright, waterways conservation officer with the Pa. Fish & Boat Commission, said he would investigate the Raub Run area in McKean County in an effort to determine the source of extremely high chloride readings.

Volkmar, who is active with Trout Unlimited and the Upper Allegheny Watershed Association, said the Oswayo Creek headwaters study is part of the multi-year Pennsylvania 3 Rivers Quest water quality assessment project. Sampling is taking place in the Allegheny, Monongahela and Ohio river systems to create profiles of water chemistry, flow information, total dissolved solids and other parameters that measure the health of three river basins. An earlier 3 Rivers Quest study was conducted in the upper Allegheny River water basin and results showed consistently high water quality.

Also at this week’s meeting:

  • Members heard an update on the groundwater study being conducted across Potter County by the U.S. Geological Survey. A state grant is covering the bulk of expenses for the investigation that will provide data on the quality and constituents of the county’s groundwater, its movement patterns and other characteristics. The information will be invaluable for public policy-makers, industries, regulatory agencies and others seeking to protect water when sites are chosen for certain types of development. Testing of 47 water wells in strategic locations will soon be completed. USGS will analyze the results over the next several months. Data will be assembled and analyzed in a cumulative fashion, with the identity of individual well owners protected. Confidential findings from the analysis will be provided to each owner. Groundwater can contain a variety of suspended and dissolved substances such as bacteria, minerals and gases. These substances are often naturally occurring, but can also be influenced by activities occurring on the land surface.
  • Charlie Tuttle, chair of the Triple Divide Watershed Coalition (TDWC), updated the work group on installation of 24/7 monitors on the supplies of nearly every public drinking water source in Potter County. Funding was obtained through the state’s settlement with JKLM Energy following a 2015 shale gas drilling infraction and pollution incident in Potter County.
  • Water Quality Work Group Chairman Jason Childs and Jared Dickerson, both from the Potter County Conservation District, discussed multiple habitat improvement, aquatic organism passage/stream connectivity, dirt and gravel road stabilization, and agricultural assistance projects the district is working on this year. Construction of a bottomless culvert on Gravel Lick Run, a tributary of Kettle Creek, is expected to greatly improve trout migration and improve the fishery. Total project cost is approximately $200,000. Trout Unlimited, Potter County Conservation District and the Pa. Fish and Boat Commission are providing funds. A similar project is slated for Ludington Run, a tributary to the Genesee River, in partnership with the Genesee Headwaters Watershed Assn.
  • Jared Dickerson updated members on ongoing efforts to battle the hemlock wooly adelgid, which is taking a toll on hemlock stands in the Pine Creek valley. The infestation is expected to have a major negative impact of fish and other wildlife. It will be the subject of a Pine Creek Headwaters Summit scheduled for Wednesday, Aug. 23, in Asaph.
  • Potter County Planning/GIS Director Will Hunt and Jason Childs reported on a series of meetings held with townships and borough officials to strengthen county/municipal partnerships. They’ve conferred with supervisors, council members and secretaries to assist them with ordinances, community planning, conservation projects and other municipal business.
  • Invasive plants continue to spread across many river corridors in Potter County. Upper Allegheny Watershed Association has been cutting and spraying Japanese knotweed infestations that are choking out native plants in the Sweden Valley area. Eradication work is also planned in the Genesee area. Nikki Ryan, coordinator for the Sinnemahoning Invasive Plant Management Area, is working to adopt two other management areas in the Genesee and Allegheny watersheds to combat invasive plants.
  • A National Science Foundation program to obtain input on regulations and land management issues is underway in Potter County. Jason Childs, Bob Volkmar, and Penn State Extension agronomy educator Nicole Carutis are spearheading the local engagement. Similar programs have been launched in Mifflin County, Pa., as well as agricultural communities in Arizona and Nebraska.
  • Potter County Conservation District is supporting the Pennsylvania Environmental Council’s ongoing clean-up of illegal dumping sites. Next work session is planned for Oct. 31 off Burleson Avenue in Roulette.
  • Will Hunt reported that a study of the failing Galeton Borough dam on the West Branch of Pine Creek and options for repair or removal has been expanded. An Appalachian Regional Commission grant will pay for a more detailed analysis of recreational options, such as a boat launch, water course for canoes, kayaks or rafts, and trails to Lyman Run State Park and/or Watrous in Tioga County.
  • Conservation Districts in Potter and McKean counties are discussing development of additional canoe/kayak boat launch areas to boost the recreational appeal of the Allegheny River.

More information on the Water Quality Work Group is available from Jason Childs at 814-320-4012. Next public meeting is scheduled for 8 am Monday, Oct. 16, in the Gunzburger Building.

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