Valley View Holds First High School Energy Fair Archbald Pennsylvania

Northeastern Pennsylvania gas companies went to Valley View High School in Lackawanna County to sponsor an energy fair introducing youth to energy careers.

The growth and dedication that has been displayed between the natural gas industry and educational institutions over the years has been staggering. While much of that relationship has been amongst local area colleges, high schools have been becoming closely involved too, as evidenced by the Energy Education Program offered at Valley View High School in Archbald.”

As this blog has noted before, the Energy Education Program offered by Valley View is the first of its kind in the state, as it brings energy-specific curriculum to the high school level and was developed as a collaboration between industry experts and school officials. The course covers nine different types of energy and regularly features speakers from the various industries.

But on Friday, Dec. 18, Valley View took the next big step in its program and hosted its first Energy Fair, which was planned and organized by the Energy Education Program class.

Read More about the Event and Program

We were planning to go to the event, but the presenter became ill.  Prior to the event, we did conduct training and educational course on energy conservation and Geothermal Energy.

Presentation on Sustainability Training (pdf)
Our Presentation on Careers in Energy – The Great Earth Engine (pdf)

More training Opportunities in Energy and the Environment

 How you can help the Keystone Clean Water Team ! Trying to encourage a positive change in Pennsylvania.

Pipeline Panel Discussion Northeastern Pennsylvania

Wilkes University is hosting a panel discussion entitled “Gas Pipelines in Northeastern PA: Challenges and Solutions” on Thursday, 19 March between 7:30 P.M. – 9:30 P.M.  The session will be held in Stark Learning Center, Room 101.  The event is free.

The purpose of the session will be to offer the public a balanced perspective on natural gas pipeline development.  Regulatory, planning, and landowner issues to protect PAs citizens and its environment while allowing for infrastructure development will be explored.

Panelists will include Mike Mara (UGI Energy Services), Dave Horn (LIUNA), Davitt Woodwell (Pennsylvania Environmental Council), Paul Metro (Pennsylvania Utility Commission), Josh Longmore (Luzerne County Conservation District), State Senator John T. Yudichak, Kenneth Klemow (Wilkes University), and Brian Oram (BF Environmental Consultants Inc).

The anticipated format will involve panelists responding to a series of prepared questions, followed up by moderated questions from the audience.


 Directions to Campus

Campus Map (You want Stark Learning Center)


Online Training Courses Related to Natural Gas Development
Sustainability Training
Stream Restoration Courses

Gas pipelines in Northeastern PA: Challenges and Solutions

Gas pipelines in Northeastern PA: Challenges and Solutions


New Well Owners Booklet Answers Many Questions

New Well Owners Booklet Answers Many Questions
When should you test your water? And what should you test it for?

WILKES-BARRE, PA—October 1, 2012—Brian Oram, a professional geologist and soil scientist and founder of B.F. Environmental Consultants, announced today that his firm is making available “The Pennsylvania Guide for Groundwater for Private Well Owners: What Do the Numbers Mean?” through the Water Research Center Portal at

“The goal of this booklet is to help educate and inform citizens on issues related to water conservation, ensuring that private water supply systems produce safe drinking water for your family, protecting the long-term quality of our streams and drinking water sources, and helping you to understand the potential sources of pollution to our water resources,” Oram said.

The booklet provides general information explaining certified water testing, chain-of-custody, and drinking water regulations and standards. It provides information related to the health (primary standards) or aesthetic (secondary standards) concerns for each parameter and provides information on water quality parameters that do not specifically have a drinking water limit.

“This reference is a guide to understanding water quality that works by providing guidance on selecting water quality testing parameters for baseline testing from a citizen’s perspective and by serving as a tool to help interpret water quality data,” Oram added.

In some cases, the document provides guidance on what actions a homeowner may want to consider in light of test results.

The booklet is part of the effort to support the Citizens Groundwater and Surfacewater Database, a grassroots effort to track change in groundwater quality in Pennsylvania. To learn more about the Citizen Groundwater/ Surfacewater Database and other Grassroots Efforts or to schedule an outreach event, go to

About B.F. Environmental Consultants, Inc.
B.F. Environmental Consultants, based in Northeastern Pennsylvania and the Poconos, has been providing professional geological, soils, hydrogeological, and environmental consulting services since 1985. The company specializes in the following areas: hydrogeological and wastewater evaluations for siting land-based wastewater disposal systems; soils consulting (soil scientists), environmental monitoring, overseeing the siting, exploration, and development of community/ commercial water supply sources; baseline water testing, conducting “certified baseline samplers training programs”,  environmental training/ professional training courses, and other environmental services. For more information about B.F. Environmental Consultants, visit and


B.F. Environmental Consultants Inc is now offering affordable distance learning courses on alternative energy systems, natural gas development, petrochemical training, environmental science, soil science, health and safety OSHA, industrial training, and engineering management.  This includes continuing education and PDH.  In addition,  our new online store offers access to information and products related to water harvesting, rain barrels, composting, water conservation, water quality monitoring, soil management, and much more.
Visit – our Website Today !

If your a training provider, please consider Joining My Training Network.

The Need to Work as a Community

The Need to Work as a Community
by Mr. Brian Oram, Professional Geologist
The Water Research Center and B.F. Environmental Consultants Inc.

I am not an insider in the natural gas development process, but I am a citizen and professional geologist from Pennsylvania.  I grew-up  in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania in the middle of the largest Anthracite Coal Fields in the World and became exposed to environmental issues while playing and living on abandon coal mine lands and near acid impacted streams.  After attending Wilkes University and Pennsylvania State University, I worked as an environmental consultant and then ran a research laboratory at Wilkes University.   After 23 years of running and conducting research, I decided to concentrate on my private consulting practice and other public education programs through B.F. Environmental Consultants Inc. and the Water Research Center.  For the record, I have no master service agreements with any natural gas company and the views posted here are mine.

The phrase “Working as a Community” comes out of my talk titled “Getting the Waters Tested- The Marcellus Shale Factor”.  The development of the Marcellus and Utica Shale has brought to the surface a little known fact that up to 50 % of private well owners are drinking water that would not meet one or more drinking water standards and the existing private wells are improperly placed and poorly constructed.   These pre-existing problems include corrosive and aggressive water, iron, manganese, bacteria, arsenic, salt, saline water, barium, strontium, some organic compounds, radon, and yes Methane Gas.   This fact,   in combination, with inadequate baseline testing has resulted in a significant amount of confusion, misinformation, and un-needed delays to meet the needs of a private well owner.  We need to start working together to move forward as a community.  To start working as a community, I am recommending the following path:

1. Join the Pennsylvania Forum for Private Well Owners (It is not about shale or energy-it is about groundwater quality)- Part of the solution – must include fixing private wells.

2. If you have baseline testing data, submit the data to the Citizens Groundwater and Surfacewater Database or if you do not know what the data means you can ask for help –Assistance is Free.

3. Participate in the Private Well Owner and Watershed Survey for Pennsylvania- (Another Free Program)

4. Host a local Community Workshop and Education Session for Private Well Owners and for Royalty Owners and Watershed Groups it may be worth helping to Develop a Local Watershed Monitoring Program.

5. Get the facts – A well by well review of the data from Dimock, PA – A NO Spin Zone – Fact based Reviews Only.

This is a positive step in the Right Direction.  It is time to start working together.   It is time to get educated, informed, and start working together.  Free information can be found on any of our portals and all of work is funded by us.    For a free booklet on drinking water quality for private well owners – visit our webportal and download a free copy of the 2009 booklet.  We are anticipating a new booklet will be available in a few months.

Thanks for your time,

Brian Oram, PG
Citizen of Pennsylvania

Geologist to speak in JT on natural gas development
Monday, April 23, 2012

Brian Oram, a professional geologist and soil scientist and founder of B.F. Environmental Consultants Inc., will be conducting a community informational session “Marcellus Shale 101” at the Mauch Chunk Museum on Broadway in Jim Thorpe, on Wednesday, April 25, at 7 p.m.

“The work going on today in the area defined by the Marcellus Shale has proven to be a divisive and polarizing topic,” said Oram. “Understanding the risks and benefits these operations pose for residents of the area and the country as a whole requires us to take a much closer look and separate what we know as fact from what we’ve simply been told.

“We need to work as a community and I am honored to help support the education outreach efforts of the Carbon County Groundwater Guardians and the Girl Scouts.”

Oram is a former professor of geology for Wilkes University. In addition to the Marcellus Shale, he will discuss water, wells and the need for baseline water testing for homeowners.

There is no cost to attend the session, which is being hosted by three Ambassador Girl Scouts working toward the Gold Award, the highest award in Girl Scouts. Part of the requirement for the award is to choose a topic and advocate or educate the community about it.

About Carbon County Groundwater Guardians

The Carbon County Groundwater Guardians (CCGG) is a 501(c)(3) non-profit, volunteer, environmental education organization which provides homeowners with information on private wells, water quality and quantity, and septic systems. We are dedicated to protecting private well owners from illnesses caused by our drinking water. For more information visit

About B.F. Environmental Consultants, Inc.

B.F. Environmental Consultants, based in Northeastern Pennsylvania and the Poconos, has been providing professional geological, soils, hydrogeological, and environmental consulting services since 1985. The company specializes in the following areas: hydrogeological and wastewater evaluations for siting land-based wastewater disposal systems; soils consulting (soil scientists); environmental monitoring; and overseeing the siting, exploration, and development of community/commercial water supply sources.

EPA’s Dimock tests divisive
Mar 6, 2012

Cabot Oil & Gas Corp. and its supporters are at odds with the federal agency.

DIMOCK — The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s testing of scores of water wells will give residents of this small Suquehanna County village a snapshot of the aquifer they rely on for drinking, cooking and bathing.

The first EPA test results, expected this week, are certain to provide fodder for both sides of a raging 3-year-old debate over unconventional natural gas drilling and its impacts on Dimock, a rural crossroads that starred in the Emmy Award-winning documentary “Gasland.”

A handful of residents are suing Cabot Oil & Gas Corp., saying the Houston-based driller contaminated their wells with potentially explosive methane gas and with drilling chemicals. Many other residents of Dimock assert the water is clean, and that the plaintiffs are exaggerating problems with their wells to help their lawsuit.

In a letter to EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson, a pro-drilling group called Enough is Enough contends the agency’s “rogue” Philadelphia field office has allowed itself to be a pawn of trial lawyers seeking a big payout from Cabot. More than 300 people signed it. “Dimock Proud” signs dot lawns throughout the village in Susquehanna County, one of the most intensively drilled regions of the Marcellus Shale gas field.

The same group recently launched a website aimed at dispelling what it contends is the myth that Dimock’s aquifer is contaminated.

Residents who have been clamoring for federal intervention say the attacks on the EPA — which have come not only from their neighbors but from Cabot and Pennsylvania’s environmental chief — are groundless.

“Since the EPA’s investigation began, Cabot and (state regulators) have undertaken a shameless public campaign against the EPA’s attempt to rescue the victims who are now without potable water and prevent their exposure to hazardous constituents now present in the aquifer,” one of their lawyers, Tate Kunkle, wrote recently.

Cabot spokesman George Stark said the company opposed the EPA testing because it creates a false impression about Dimock.

“It’s the notion that there must be something wrong there in order for the EPA to either do testing or to deliver water. I think it causes more concern, more mistrust, more misinformation about the industry overall,” he said.

In addition to testing scores of water wells, the EPA is paying to deliver fresh water to four homes where the agency cited worrisome levels of manganese, sodium and cancer-causing arsenic.

Brian Oram, an independent geologist and water consultant from Northeastern Pennsylvania, said he is puzzled by the agency’s rationale for being in Dimock, since the substances that EPA said it’s most concerned about are naturally occurring and commonly found in the regional groundwater.

Nevertheless, Oram supports the EPA testing because it will provide water quality data the parties can trust, and against which future drilling can be measured.

Cabot asserts the high methane levels that its own testing has consistently found in the Dimock water wells are naturally occurring and easily remediated.

But state regulators have cited “overwhelming evidence,” including chemical fingerprinting, that linked the methane in Dimock’s water supply to improperly cemented gas wells drilled by Cabot.

Private well survey and database planned in PA
October 26, 2011

TRR photo by Sandy Long

Brian Oram, a licensed professional geologist, offered this advice at a presentation in Honesdale, PA: “If you want to protect the Delaware and Susquehanna rivers, you need to protect where the water gets into the aquifer and that is in rural private wells.”

In preparation for natural gas extraction and its potential impacts and opportunities, a session on methane migration was hosted by the Wayne County Oil and Gas Task Force on October 18 in Honesdale.

During his presentation, licensed professional geologist Brian Oram announced that a private well owner and watershed survey would be conducted to obtain information on regional concerns related to development of the Marcellus Shale.

Oram is the owner of BF Environmental Consultants, Inc. of Dallas, PA and former director of the Center for Environmental Quality at Wilkes University, where he oversaw production of a free publication on private well water testing (

Oram opened his presentation with a plea to move beyond the division created by supporters and opponents of gas drilling and to focus on “understanding the risks” and testing private wells now. “It’s the match of the century,” Oram said. “Which side are we on? That’s the mindset that’s causing us problems.”

The primary risk Oram points to is the fact that nearly half of the private wells tested in Pennsylvania don’t meet the drinking water standards established by the EPA. Typical problems include corrosion, copper, lead, iron, manganese and methane, according to Oram.

“For 23 years, I’ve been encouraging private owners to test their water,” he said. “Maybe five percent do. It took an industry to come to town to get people to think about the quality of their own drinking water and to get it tested.”
Oram also discussed the Citizen Groundwater Database established at Wilkes University

The regional database provides a central location to store baseline pre-drilling and/or post-drilling water quality data in order to document quality by geological formation, identify existing regional issues or concerns and provide an unbiased community resource as well as a mechanism to track temporal,
spatial and other geospatial variations in water quality.

Data from 320 private wells in Luzerne County, secured with a full chain of custody and third party testing, is already stored. “Forty-nine percent of the wells tested in Luzerne County violated the drinking water standard for total coliform bacteria,” he said. “Twenty-five percent had elevated lead; 10% of the population is drinking water contaminated with e coli. Some private wells contain pthalates (plasticizers), which can cause gastrointestinal problems and are suspected endocrine disruptors and carcinogens.”

Oram is a passionate advocate for the establishment of well construction standards, and an active critic of “what PA has allowed to happen to the private well program” by not implementing such standards. Pennsylvania is one of two states without construction standards, according to Oram. The other is Alaska.

Wells with problems such as bacterial or viral contamination are conduits for contamination of aquifers, Oram added. “We need to fix those. These are the vulnerable points in our communities.” Water can also move along casings and contaminate the groundwater aquifer, he said.

Oram urged audience members to get baseline testing done now. “Spend what you can afford,” he said. “There’s a list of recommended DEP parameters which runs about $400.” If doing baseline testing, he recommends adding tests for methane, ethane and propane.

BF Environmental’s Private Well Owner Survey seeks information on regional concerns related to Marcellus Shale and other non-point sources of pollution. The survey also aims to gauge support for a construction standard for new private wells, and to find out if citizens would test their water once a year if it only cost about $50.

The company is also absorbing the costs for free radon testing for 200 private wells to explore “how a migration event could occur if it may be related to a Marcellus Shale activity.” The web-based survey ( can be filled out online or mailed in. The company also offers baseline  testing related to Marcellus Shale development and has recommended testing packages that are region specific.

Oram urged local leadership to use the results of such testing to inform decision-making, support solutions that fix problematic private wells and develop a community support program where citizens can call and get answers.

The event also featured Burt Waite, senior geologist and program director for Moody and Associates, Inc. who spoke on “Understanding Stray Gas in Pennsylvania.” Wayne County commissioners Brian Smith and Wendell Kay offered concluding remarks.

“Understand the risks,” said Smith. “Make good decisions based on what the risks really are and do that by talking to the people who have the skill sets that can help address those risks and solve the problems. That’s what we’re doing by having these forums.”

Kay added, “The goal of this organization is to educate as many of us as possible to all the aspects. This commission is looking at a whole variety of issues, both positive and negative, that will come about as part of this economic opportunity that we all hope we will enjoy.”

For more information visit www.bfen,, or

Tackling Marcellus Shale factor

Tackling Marcellus Shale factor

Published: October 23, 2011

In 1795 settlers in Montrose discussed water that would “bubble and catch fire like black powder.” Later it was determined that Salt Spring contained methane gas. What is now Salt Spring State Park in Susquehanna County was once the site of an attempted oil and salt operation.

Today it appears the development of the Marcellus Shale is commercially viable.  Methane is not uniformly distributed in the Marcellus Shale, but it is virtually everywhere in our environment. Methane  can be found in saturated soils, lake sediments, wetlands, landfills, and the Catskill Formation (our source of drinking water) to name a few. There is no drinking water standard for methane gas, but there are guidance levels due to concerns for the potential of accumulation which can create an explosive environment. The guidance level in Pennsylvania is 7 milligrams per liter of methane in water. There also are action levels when airborne concentrations reach 10 percent of the lower explosive limit. The level of methane in water and the level in a confined headspace do not correlate. If gas is collecting in the headspace of a well the problem is that the well is not properly vented and this needs to be corrected. It does not indicate methane is present in the water below.

Prior to Marcellus development it had been my experience that levels of methane can range from not detectable to greater than 28 miligrams per liter. I lit my first tap in 1989.

The concentration of methane gas in water is highly variable. Methane levels can change greatly in the same well in a matter of days and concentrations may vary widely. This was one reason, in 2009, I proposed lowering the recommended action level in Pennsylvania to its current state. The level of methane fluctuation is determined by many factors including barometric pressure, rainfall amounts, ice cover on soil, groundwater levels, water well operation, depth of pump setting, depth of well, and geological setting. All of these factors can cause the headspace and dissolved methane to fluctuate. Given this all residents should vent their wells.

Currently baseline water testing is being done throughout our area. These tests demonstrate that our groundwater is not pure. Local groundwater contains measurable to explosive levels of methane gas and other trace elements. Of specific concern is that up to 50 percent of private wells may not meet a primary drinking water standard because of bacterial contamination, arsenic, barium or lead. I call this the “Marcellus Shale factor.” The development of this natural resource has piqued our attention and is another reason we need to work together to test our water and understand the challenges we face. The only way we can address our groundwater challenges is to understand these issues and take corrective action.

Throughout my career, I have conducted extensive groundwater and private well testing. We created the Web portal as a free information resource and we are continuing our work on the Citizens Groundwater and Surfacewater Database for our area. In addition, we are conducting a private well owner watershed survey and are planning to offer free radon in water screening. This data warehouse will enable us to better understand our resources, current issues, and track future change. It can also be used to make decisions that ensure the health, safety and welfare of our community and environment.

Recently, the Department of Environmental Protection determined methane levels in Dimock meet the requirements of the consent document agreed to by all parties. It is my hope that continued monitoring will confirm this conclusion and that we all work together to move forward with greater understanding.  We are a community and may not all agree but we must work together – this is our home.

It is critical that local stakeholders form task forces and create community resources to educate, assist and inform ourselves to make educated decisions based on science, not fear. Our first order of business should be the development of private well standards and a program to upgrade existing private wells. This should be in addition to the development of best-management practices for development of the Marcellus Shale in our region. These actions are critical to ensure the health, safety and economic welfare of our citizens and environment.

Brian Oram is a licensed professional geologist and the founder of
B.F. Environmental Consultants.  Previously he worked at Wilkes
University’s Center for Environmental Quality.

Citizens Unite – Compile Your Water Quality Data

(Note: Brian Oram is a charter member of the Carbon County Groundwater Guardians.)

Citizens – there are more private wells than public water supplies in Pennsylvania. In many regions, the natural gas companies have conducted baseline testing and have returned the data to you. The problem is that the industry has the data and can easily compile, but for citizens they are lacking an explanation of the data and it is not being compiled. We need to work together to protect our groundwater data.

To help – send NO Money – All that is being asked is as follows:

1. Send a copy of your water quality data or host a community meeting where the water quality data could be compiled.

To request a community meeting or presentation on “Getting the Waters Tested- The Marcellus Shale Factor” or the “Community Groundwater / Surfacewater Database” – email or Please put Citizen Database in Subject.

2. Release the data to the Citizens Groundwater / Surfacewater Database. Here is the information sheet. The database will only include the data and No personal information.

3. Email the information to the addresses above or send a hardcopy to

Mr. Brian Oram, PG
Citizen Outreach Program
15 Hillcrest Drive
Dallas, PA 18612

4. You get a review of your data for free and you can be sure your data will help track water quality change in the region.

5. Private Well Owner Survey – Funded by Mr. Brian Oram. Please participate – the survey results in be published in the New Free Guidebook for Private Well Owners
This survey is part of the efforts of Mr. Brian Oram, Professional Geologist, and owner of B.F. Environmental Consultants Inc to help educate and inform the community. The survey will not be published and all information is confidential. Part of this survey will be used to create a new booklet that helps educate private well owners and policy makers in our community. This survey is not funded by any outside company or organization and solely funded by Mr. Brian Oram.

Please act now.

Thanks for your consideration

Brian Oram, Professional Geologist, Soils Scientist, Licensed Well Driller
My Blog Site –
Free Outreach to Private Well Owners –

Well water users will get financial aid

Seminars will provide low interest loan information to rural households.

Rural household owners using well water – pull out your calendars and red pens. Four seminars are planned to introduce a Household Water Well Assistance Program.

Brian Oram, Wilkes University professor and Director of the Center for Environmental Quality, said the goal of the seminars is to educate the public.

The Pocono Northeast Resource Conservation and Development Council, a nonprofit organization, has acquired $130,000 in grant money and will lend it out as low interest loans to low- and moderate-income households to repair and improve their quality of well water.

A seminar is scheduled from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. on March 21 at the Lake Township Municipal building. Other seminars are scheduled for today at the Monroe County Conservation District, Stroudsburg; March 22 at the Columbia County AG Center, Bloomsburg; and March 23 at the Wayne County Park Street Complex, Honesdale.

Anyone unable to attend any of the meetings can obtain information by contacting the Pocono Northeast Resource Conservation and Development Council, Mayfield, by calling 570-282-8732, extension 4, e-mailing to, or visiting the RC & D website

RC & D chairman Brian Oram said the goal of the seminars is to educate the public on what minerals and their amounts are normally found in well water, private well and drinking water issues, and the specifics of the RC & D Household Well Water Program.

The terms of the loan are simple. Well water home owners must live in a rural area with an average of fewer than 274 people per square mile, proof of ownership and full-time residence, must qualify as low-to-moderate income, well water must already be tested to show existing problems, and applicants must prove ability to repay the loan.

According to the guidelines of the RC & D, low income in Luzerne County starts at $31,700 for one person to $52,550 for six people in one household. A chart is available at the RC & D website.

Oram, a geology professor and laboratory manager for the Center of Environmental Quality at Wilkes University in Wilkes-Barre, said loans will not exceed $11,000, will have 1 percent interest, and recipients will have a maximum of 20 years to repay.

Applications will be accepted starting March 1. Oram said beginning April 25, applications will be reviewed every two weeks.

Some of the uses of the loan would include drilling a new well for an existing home, and closing off an old well. Oram said the loan would not cover drilling a well for new construction, water testing, to pay for home plumbing systems, or for a home sewer or septic systems.

In his 20 years of experience in studying area water supplies, Oram found the biggest well water problems involve bacteria and solids. He said unlike reservoir water which is tested daily, well water users do not test their water frequently.

“The Environmental Protection Agency advises well water should be tested annually,” he said.

Lately, rural homeowners have been testing their well water, due to the invading Marcellus Shale natural gas industry. Hidden pre-existing quality problems are being found. The loan could help them increase the quality of their water, Oram said.

“Almost everybody uses well water,” Oram said. “Thirty percent of reservoir water comes from ground water. We all have a vested interest in maintaining quality ground water.”

EILEEN GODIN Times Leader Correspondent

March 14, 2011