By Karen Cimms,
The Times News, © 2000

October 20, 2000

“We knew if we could develop a water test at reduced rates, more homeowners could be induced to test their water,” ……..Frank Waksmunski, high school science teacher

Carbon County has been designated a Groundwater Guardian Community by the Groundwater Foundation of Lincoln, Neb., thanks to the hard work of a small team of local residents, and in particular, two very dedicated men.

LeRoy Skinner and Frank Waksmunski, a high school science teacher and a retired pharmaceutical chemist, teamed up just over a year ago with other concerned citizens and county officials with the goal of protecting the area’s groundwater and earning Groundwater Guardian status.

Waksmunski and Skinner learned last month that their efforts have been successful. To celebrate, instead of the regular monthly meeting, the local guardians held a special gathering and reception for members, their families and invited guests, at the Carbon County Environmental Education Center in Summit Hill last week.

Waksmunski developed an interest in groundwater when he moved to Towamensing Township in January of 1998. Originally from New Jersey, where his water had always come from a municipal water source, Waksmunski was dismayed to learn that very limited testing was required on his well before his mortgage could be approved.

The only test required was a standard test for E. coli bacteria and fecal coliform bacteria. Waksmunski wondered about other possible contaminants, but learned extensive testing was costly and time consuming, and would delay closing on his new home. He was told most people don’t have the time or the money to thoroughly test their well water. The general, but disturbing, consensus was that people assumed their well water was fine since they never heard of any problems.

“To my mind,” says Waksmunski, “you don’t know unless you test the water.” He was concerned that without proper testing, it was possible toxins could be in the water at low levels, that cannot be seen, smelled, or tasted. Waksmunski and Skinner met when the Jim Thorpe Area High School science teacher called the Retired Senior Volunteer Program (RSVP) for someone to help with a class project. Waksmunski was the volunteer who showed up to help Skinner’s environmental science class monitor water in a stream near the high school.

Skinner, who resides in Kresgeville, has conducted this exercise with his class each spring for the last 10 years.

By the way he handled himself and his students and taught the class, Waksmunski could tell Skinner was also someone who was concerned with the environment.

Armed with a genuine desire to protect the local groundwater, Waksmunski and Skinner joined forces, hooked up with the Groundwater Foundation, and created the local groundwater guardian group.

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

Following guidelines and requirements put forth by the foundation, the Carbon County Guardians completed four result-oriented activities that helped clinch the designation. The activities included Jim Thorpe Area High School students testing area residents’ wells; published several articles about groundwater in the TIMES NEWS; distributed information during the Carbon County Fair to help educate the public; and created a Web site describing the organization and offering educational information and sources for homeowners wishing to have their well water tested.

“We knew if we could develop a water test at reduced rates, more homeowners could be induced to test their water,” says Waksmunski. With the help of local member Brian Oram, a professor at Wilkes University, and through the cooperation of the university, information is available online and water testing for a variety of contaminants can be requested at greatly reduced rates for all Carbon County homeowners.

Future plans of the Carbon County Groundwater Guardians include developing a program to collect and recycle hazardous materials, such as motor oil, and expanding the in-school well water testing program throughout the county’s five school districts. The group will also continue its education efforts.

Skinner is in charge of the newly-formed committee that hopes to bring well water testing to all the county’s high schools. “We will also try to stress educating children, from elementary school on up, on the importance of protecting their groundwater,” he says.

If a grant the county has applied for is approved, Skinner says they will be able to purchase the necessary supplies to conduct the tests at high schools.

Carbon County Commissioner Wayne Nothstein was among the guests at the recent celebration and commended the groundwater guardians for all they have achieved. He said he was particularly impressed with the group’s dedication to education.

“They’re letting people know how what they do today will effect the groundwater of tomorrow,” he said. “It’s the most difficult part of the job -trying to educate people.”

The Carbon County Groundwater Guardians meet on the first Monday of every month at 6 p.m. in the Carbon County Emergency Management Agency meeting room at the communications center, located on the grounds of the county prison, just off Route 93 in Nesquehoning.

For more information, visit the Carbon County Groundwater Guardians at; or The Groundwater Foundation at