By Karen Cimms
The Times News, © 2001

April 20, 2001

The Carbon County Ground-water Guardians will receive $7,500 from the Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development under its Community Revitalization Assistance Program. The grant award was announced last week during the weekly meeting of the Carbon County commissioners.

Carbon County Groundwater Guardians was founded in July of 1999 by LeRoy Skinner, a teacher at Jim Thorpe Area High School, and Frank Waksmunski, a retired pharmaceutical chemist. They have been joined by other concerned citizens, including the staff of the Carbon County Environmental Education Center, to become a small but hardworking team of volunteers dedicated to preserving and protecting the quality of groundwater in the county.

Due to their efforts Carbon County was designated a Groundwater Guardian Community by the Groundwater Foundation of Lincoln, Neb., last September.

Through its Groundwater Guardian program the foundation supports, recognizes and connects communities protecting groundwater by enabling them to take voluntary steps aimed at protecting their groundwater resources.

The local guardians had to complete four result-oriented activities in order to earn the coveted title. Those activities included students from Jim Thorpe Area High School testing area resident’s wells; publishing several articles about groundwater in the TIMES NEWS; distributing information during the Carbon County Fair to help educate the public; and creating a Web site describing the organization and offering educational information and sources for homeowners wishing to have their well water tested.

Waksmunski says the group already has plans for the grant money, which include expanding well water testing to all the high schools in the county. Tests are designed to look for coliform bacteria.

“We’re hoping to supply the five schools with the necessary equipment for well water testing.” Waksmunski said each school will need an incubator and certain testing materials, such as a special ‘broth’ to place the water into. ]”What we want to do is become a resource for the school district to bring more groundwater education into the school system and to localize it,” he said. “Kids would be testing water they had an interest in, such as their wells or local springs.”

Waksmunski said a committee has been set up, headed by Skinner, to set up water testing in all the county school districts. The committee will also work on a pilot program in conjunction with Susan Gallagher from the Carbon County Environmental Education Center to put on a groundwater festival at the center for fourth-grade students in the Jim Thorpe Area School District.

“We hope to be able to expand to the other school districts as well,” said Waksmunski. He said without the grant money, the organization would not be able to continue with its programs.

“This will also allow us to go to the Carbon County Fair again this year and to have a drawing for free water tests like we did last year.” Waksmunski said the guardians gave away 10 free water tests last year, and hope to increase that number this year.