The Times News, © 2002
April 17, 2002

Palmerton, PA (April 16) Gov. Mark Schweiker and DEP Secretary David E. Hess today recognized Carbon County Groundwater Guardians for its commitment to watershed restoration and environmental protection. Carbon County Groundwater Guardians was one of 24 organizations from across Pennsylvania selected to receive the prestigious Governor’s Award for Watershed Stewardship for 2002.

“It is my great honor to congratulate the winners of the 2002 Governor’s Award for Watershed Stewardship,” Gov. Schweiker said. “These individuals and organizations are reclaiming abandoned mine lands, protecting and restoring our valuable watersheds and reaching out to our communities to educate them about the importance of Pennsylvania’s natural resources.”

With a mission to protect and conserve Carbon County’s groundwater, Groundwater Guardians is a nonprofit volunteer organization funded by a $7,500 Community Revitalization Grant and supplemented by local donations. Recognizing that making an impact on groundwater quality hinges on community awareness and involvement, Groundwater Guardians is dedicated to educating people about critical water issues.

Groundwater Guardians has built strategic partnerships, with groups like Wilkes University, Webdesign Pros, the Carbon County Conservation District and local schools, to spread the word about protecting groundwater. For example, Webdesign Pros helped develop and launch the Groundwater Guardians website at The website explains groundwater protection issues and offers action tips, maps and links to a variety of other helpful sites. County residents can even learn how to get reduced-cost residential well water tests by visiting the site.

Thousands of visitors to the 2001 Carbon County Fair had the opportunity to learn about wells and septic systems, groundwater contamination and water testing at a booth sponsored by Groundwater Guardians. The group also recently published two articles in a local newspaper with a readership of more than 16,000 and is planning to publish several more later this year.

Groundwater guardians also has engaged school children in water quality awareness by setting up in-class laboratory experiments and giving students the chance to perform bacteria tests on water samples brought in from home. Hundreds of students from all five county high schools have participated in these labs, and the Guardians will implement this program in the county’s vocational/technical high school this year.

“Carbon County Groundwater Guardians is dedicated to protecting and restoring the groundwater of Carbon County and we’re proud that Governor Schweiker and DEP Secretary Hess have recognized us for our efforts,” said Frank Waksmunski, President and cofounder. “The energy and enthusiasm of our volunteers and community have been key to our success in protectingand enhancing Pennsylvania’s natural waterways and native wildlife for the enjoyment of future generations.”

This year’s winners have proven their commitment to sustaining the health of Pennsylvania’s watersheds. Collectively, they have removed 142,760 pounds of trash; installed 25,783 feet of streambank fencing; stabilized 3,752 feet of streambank; created 810 acres of wetlands; reclaimed 200 acres of abandoned mine land and improved 48.5 miles of mine drainage-polluted streams. The effects of these accomplishments have been immediate and invaluable.

This year marks the second annual Governor’s Award for Watershed Stewardship. In 1999, former Governor Tom Ridge signed into law “Growing Greener” – the largest-ever investment of state funds to address Pennsylvania’s critical environmental issues. Since then, watershed groups, local governments and conservation districts have taken advantage of these state dollars to implement watershed protection projects. These awards honor the individuals and organizations engaged in safeguarding and enhancing our environment across Pennsylvania.

Projects are evaluated by an independent panel of judges, who select winners based on a variety of criteria, including economic and environmental impact, pollution prevention, teamwork, public service and educational efforts.