By Elsa Kerschner, The Times News, © 2007

March 20, 2007

The Carbon County Groundwater Guardians, part of a national organization dedicated to encouraging communities to begin and enhance groundwater awareness and protection activities, described a well as a private water system during a seminar held March 14 at Towamensing Township.

“In Pennsylvania you own the problems that go with having a well,” said presenter Keith Lotier, who is employed by Moyer Well Drilling.

The Guardians created a program, “How Well Is Your Well,” to help people understand what is involved. The decision to hold the presentation in Towamensing followed a spike in contaminated wells in the Forest Inn Road area this past year.

The group offers discount water testing through Wilkes University. Lotier said the average well in the township is 200 feet deep. He said the first step to good water is having the well properly constructed.

Casing is required in the top section to prevent surface water from entering the well. If there is sandy soil, the casing may have to go lower.

A well will cost $4,000 and with the pump added it goes up to $6,000. A well driller will be familiar with permits and placment. In general at least 100 feet is required from a septic system. The county and state have some under clean water laws but townships do not. Lotier thinks it is better that townships not develop such restrictions because enforcement can be difficult.

He was asked if there is a mechanism to warn neighbors when one well in an area is found contaminated. There is not, but you share an aquifer (the layer of rock that holds water), he said.

Bacteria are the most common pollutant. Iron in the water causes brown stains and copper causes blue-green stains.

He showed a cutaway tank used to hold water in the basement and showed how the water is actually held in a bladder with most of the tank holding pressurized air. The more frequently the pump runs, the shorter its life is. Lotier also had a cut-away showing how a pump fits in a well.

Brian Oram, a licensed well driller, sewage enforcement officer and geologist from Wilkes University, said there are 17,876 wells in Carbon County.

“Your well is only as good as the cheapest well using the aquifer,” he said. Pennsylvania is one of only two states without regulation. Twenty-one townships have regulations.

He said if the casing is not grouted, surface water runs down the outside.

The draw down on an aquifer can reach a mile when a pump is turned on.

Insects and small animals can enter the top of a well that has a standard cap. Sanitary well caps are available and should be installed, said Oram. That single step can remove 50 percent of problems.

Annual tests should be done for two reasons: to help prevent health problems and for reasons of esthetics such as taste, odor and color.

Through a series of questions the cost of testing can be cut down because the water needs to be tested for only those things that might apply. Radon and arsenic issues are local problems. Tests for copper and lead have to be done with the first water out of the pipes and after it has run a while.

The biggest problem with testing is educating people to the necessity, said Oram.

Rick Grant, Guardian president, said the group meets the first Monday of each month at the emergency management building near the prison in Nesquehoning at 6 p.m. Everyone is welcome whether or not they plan to become members. He said they can tell people where to go for relatively inexpensive water testing.

Web sites that have more information are:, http://mwon, www.dep.state.,, www.pgwa. org, and

Groundwater Guardians’ email address is Oram’s address at Wilkes University is