By Karen Cimms,
The Times News, © 2002

April 18, 2002

Gov. Mark Schweiker yesterday honored 25 Pennsylvania organizations and individuals from 23 counties, including Carbon County, for their outstanding achievements in environmental protection during the Governor’s Award for Watershed Stewardship ceremony.

Carbon County Groundwater Guardians were among six organizations honored for watershed demonstration, education and outreach.

“The Governor’s Award for Watershed Stewardship program, now in its third year, recognizes Pennsylvanians who are making a positive difference in our environment by protecting the commonwealth’s valuable watersheds,” Gov. Schweiker said. “In just two years, 50 award winners have removed 143,760 pounds of trash, installed 61,564 feet of streambank fencing, stabilized 7,452 feet of streambank, restored 44,271 feet of land along waterways, and created 2,000 acres of wetlands.

“These accomplishments are the result of partnerships, as this year’s winners have forged 191 partnerships and formed 52 watershed organizations. It’s because of such partnerships that Pennsylvania continues to be a leader in watershed stewardship.”

The Governor’s Award for Watershed Stewardship honors organizations and individuals for improving Pennsylvania’s environment. The awards are presented in four categories: watershed partnerships; watershed assessment and planning; watershed protection and restoration; and watershed demonstrations, education and outreach.

Frank Waksmunski, president and co-founder of the Carbon County Groundwater Guardians, and his wife, Liz, the organization’s secretary, traveled to Harrisburg to accept the award on behalf of CCGG.

“It’s a tremendous honor for Carbon County,” Waksmunski said Wednesday from his Palmerton home. “We feel that without the support of the people in the county, we would not have received this award.” Waksmunski also credits the support of the county commissioners and the Carbon County Conservation District.

The local groundwater guardians were nominated for the award by Susan Gallagher, chief naturalist at the Carbon County Environmental Education Center, which operates under the direction of the Conservation District. Gallagher is also a groundwater guardian volunteer.

Waksmunski said while the organization was recognized for all its programs, one in particular may have cinched the award.

“It was probably the fact that we are helping the high schools with the water testing programs for bacteria. We have expanded so that all five high schools and the vo-tech now participate.”

The program started several years ago at Jim Thorpe Area High School. The CCGG used $3,000 from a recent grant to purchase the necessary equipment and supplies to take the program countywide.

“Kids are testing their own water that they bring from home,” says Waksmunski.

“The groundwater system of Carbon County truly is in good hands with this organization,” says state Rep. Keith McCall, D-Carbon. “Not only has it conducted groundwater contamination labs at Carbon County high schools, but the group has worked hard to educate people about water issues that can impact water quality.”

With a mission to protect and conserve Carbon County’s groundwater, CCGG 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, CCGG is dedicated to educating people about critical water issues.

CCGG 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.

Last summer thousands of visitors to the Carbon County Fair had the opportunity to learn about wells and septic systems, groundwater contamination and water testing at a booth sponsored by CCGG. It has also published articles in TIMES NEWS to reach more residents.

“The group’s ultimate goal is to safeguard groundwater supplies by getting the word out to as many people as they can,” says McCall. “They have been very successful and are well-deserving of the governor’s award.”

To learn about CCGG, visit The Web site 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.