By Karen Cimms, kcimms[AT]
The Times News, © 2001

October 12, 2001

For the second year in a row Carbon County has been designated as a Groundwater Guardian Community by the National Groundwater Foundation in Lincoln, Neb., thanks to the efforts of the Carbon County Groundwater Guardians Members of the CCGG, their families and guests, gathered Wednesday evening at the Carbon County Environmental Education Center (CCEEC) in Summit Hill to celebrate that recognition and the year’s accomplishments, and to pay tribute to some people who helped make things happen. This branch of the groundwater guardians was formed two years ago when LeRoy Skinner and Frank Waksmunski, a high school science teacher and a retired pharmaceutical chemist, teamed up with a common goal ] to preserve and protect the area’s groundwater. With the help of a small but dedicated following, the organization is making great strides toward ensuring safe drinking water for residents of Carbon County.

To be designated a Groundwater Guardian Community, local organizations must conceive and complete a number of “Result Oriented Activities” (ROA), designed to increase awareness of groundwater issues, as well as to protect and conserve this important natural resource.

In its first year the local groundwater guardians completed four ROAs which included well-water testing by Jim Thorpe Area High School students; published articles about groundwater in the TIMES NEWS; distributed public education information during the Carbon County Fair; and created a Web site describing the organization and offering educational information and sources for homeowners wishing to have their well water tested. This year the group included, and in some cases enhanced, last year’s ROAs. Three more were added as well. One of the enhanced ROAs is the well-water testing, which has been expanded to include all five of the county’s high schools.

A $7,500 grant from the states Department of Community and Economic Development helped fund some of these projects.

New ROAs this year include a low-cost homeowners’ well-water testing program, offered through its association with Wilkes University where the testing is done; a CCGG Elementary Groundwater Awareness Day, co-sponsored by the CCEEC, which exposed fourth grade students from L. B. Morris Elementary School in Jim Thorpe to the importance of groundwater; and established a household hazardous waste recycling program. At the present time provisions are available for recycling used motor oil. CCGG is working to expand the program to include other hazardous materials.

In addition to being recognized by the National Groundwater Foundation, CCGG has been named the “2000 Conservation Organization of the Year” by the Carbon County Conservation District, and was nominated for the “Governor’s Award for Watershed Stewardship.”

On Wednesday Waksmunski also recognized several groundwater guardian members for their contributions during the year. Myron Phillips of Bethlehem, and Scott Moyer and Brian Oram, both local residents, have been CCGG members since its inception.

Phillips was instrumental in compelling the organization to participate in the Carbon County Fair. He designed and constructed the CCGG booth, which it shared this year with the CCEEC.

Moyer, a well drilling contractor, and Oram, a professional geologist and laboratory manager for The Center for Environmental Quality at Wilkes University, were saluted for the time, talent and finances they have devoted towards the success of the CCGG.

Waksmunski also took time to recognize his co-founder, Skinner, and present him with a plaque. Skinner recently resigned due to time constraints.

Skinner said he will still do water testing with his Jim Thorpe Area High School students, and will keep in touch with Waksmunski via e-mail. “I’m sorry I had to withdraw my services,” he said. “I still plan to be on the sidelines. Maybe when I retire from teaching I’ll have the time again. I certainly have the interest. I have faith in the organization that they will continue and do a good job.

Panther Valley High School science teacher John McKay will take over some of Skinner’s responsibility.