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Taking Clean Water Mission To DEP/Harrisburg

December 27th, 2016
takingwatermissiontohburg

Among attendees at a water protection meeting in the Rachel Carson State Office Building were (from left): Dr. Jennifer Whisner, Bloomsburg University; John Stefanko, DEP Deputy Secretary; Brian Heiser, State College Water Authority; Paul Heimel, Potter County Commissioner; and DEP representatives Marcus Kohl and Mark Stephens, from the Williamsport Regional Office.

Protection of public water supplies was the mission of a regional delegation that traveled to Harrisburg this week to make their case before the Pa. Dept. of Environmental Protection. DEP Deputy Secretary John Stefanko hosted the meeting with a delegation that included Potter County Commissioner Paul Heimel, representing the Triple Divide Watershed Coalition; Carl Cox, chairman of the Tioga County Sourcewater Protection Coalition; Dr. Jennifer Whisner, professor at Bloomsburg University; Brian Heiser, representing the State College Water Authority; and Eric Moore, chairman of the Northcentral Pa. Sourcewater Protection Alliance. Stefanko pledged to share the messages with DEP Secretary Patrick McDonnell and other decision-makers in the agency.

The group called on DEP to support studies to identify the sources, contents/quality, and movement of groundwater. With gas and oil industry leaders forecasting a frenzy of shale gas-drilling in future years, these studies would establish baseline data and pinpoint areas of special concern. U.S. Geological Survey is providing funding and technical assistance for the studies, one of which is scheduled to get underway in Potter County next year. Dozens of water wells across the county will be evaluated to create the database.

On a related note, the local representatives urged DEP to take into account the proximity of public drinking water sources when reviewing permit applications for drilling and other and disturbances. Many public water suppliers, including all 11 in Potter County, have approved sourcewater protection plans that would provide the relevant information to DEP permitting personnel. Other issues aired included the importance of public education provided by the Water Resources Education Network (WREN), and the bureaucratic challenges that local governments are facing due to conflicting regulations of DEP and the Susquehanna River Basin Commission.

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