For the New or Future Water Well Owner Homebuyer in Pennsylvania

Welcome to Pennsylvania and Welcome to Managing Your Own Small Water Company

In Pennsylvania,  there are generally no specific construction standards for private wells and there is only some general guidance with respect to well placement and construction.  Further, private well water is not regulated by the EPA or PADEP and therefore it is up to YOU to check your water to ensure that the well produces good clean and adequate water.    This is only a short summary of the information.  If you are interested we offer a Private Well Owner Training Course that can be offered as a Workshop for Your Community, Association, or other Organization.

There are a number of steps to this process and well will break them down as follows:

Well Placement
Well Construction
Well Testing (Yield and Quality)
Well Maintenance
Annual Water Testing

Well Placement
In general, the primary guidance with to water well placement in Pennsylvania is that a water well should be 100 feet from a septic system (regulated), 50 feet from a septic tank (regulated), 10 feet from a sewer line under pressure (regulated), and 10 feet from a property line. To be honest, these isolation distance do not consider impacts from other natural conditions or activities.  In general, we  would recommend the following:

1. If possible, the private well owner should control all activities within a 50 to  100 foot radius of the wellhead, i.e.., top of the water well. These activities should include: use of pesticides and herbicides, storage of toxic or hazardous chemicals, storage or management of manure and other waste, diversion of surface water and runoff, overuse of the area by grazing animals, location of burrow pits, burn pipes, rubbish storage, or storage of used cars or other items that may contain antifreeze, oils, and greases.
2. Well casing should extend at least 12 inches above grade.
3. Well should be fitted with a sanitary well cap that has some form of venting.
4. The well should be located at least 10 feet from a property line.

Other suggested isolation distances

Delineated wetlands or floodplains (25 feet)- with top of casing 3 feet above flood elevation.
Surface waters (25 feet) Storm water Systems (25 feet)
BioInfiltration Stormwater Systems (50 feet +)
Spray Irrigation/ Septage Disposal (100 feet+)
Sinkholes and Closed Depressions (100 feet +)
Farm silos / manure storage (200 feet) Septic Systems (100 feet)
Septic Tanks/Holding Tanks (50 feet)
Chemical Storage/Preparation Area (300 feet)

Well Construction

1. Prefer the use of steel casing that extends at least 15 feet to 20 feet into firm bedrock or 60 feet below ground, whichever is greater.
2. Casing should be of  adequate wall thickness to deal with corrosion and stress – 19lb casing.
3. The base of the casing should contain a driveshoe on the bottom of the casing and casing centralized in the borehole.
4. Wells drilled by a licensed well driller using only potable water as the drilling fluid.
5. Casing should be double circumferential welded or threaded casing
6. Well caps should be sanitary well caps that are properly vented.
7. Annular space should have a grout layer that is at least 1.5 inches thick.
8. Pitless adapters should be used over well pits.

Well Testing (Yield and Quality)

After the well is drilled, the well should be developed using surging, air-lift, or pumping the well.  This is done to clean out the well cuttings and improve yield.  In some cases, this needs to be done to improve the efficiency of the borehole. If the well yield is low, some well drillers will hydrofrac the well. If you are going to hydrofrac a water well, we recommend zone hydraulic fracturing to isolate the deeper potential water-bearing zones.   After the well development has been completed, a shock wellbore disinfection should be conducted.  The well should be allowed to fully recover and a minimum 2-hour yield test is recommend.  After the yield testing, the well should be shock disinfected.  For information on shock disinfection – we recommend visiting Water-Research Center.   The well yield data should include the static water level (water level before pumping), maximum dynamic water level (maximum depth to water during pumping), pumping rate, and length of the pumping test.  This data should be included on the well log and the specific capacity of the well should be reported.  The specific capacity is the rate of yield or gallons per minute per foot of drawdown.  The drawdown is the difference between the static and dynamic water level measurement. 

Before the end of the yield testing, it is recommended that a general water quality analysis of the well be conducted.  This testing should include bacterial quality, general water quality, and specific parameters that are known problems for your region.  Do not rely on a free water analysis or a basic water quality screening down by the well driller.  This should be either information or certified testing conducted by a laboratory.  For information on this type of testing, please contact the Keystone Clean Water Team or the Water-Research Center.   The initial water quality testing data should be reviewed and evaluated.  The first well or city water quality test should be a comprehensive water quality check.  If you are want informational water testing, we would recommend either the Well Water Check or the City Water Check Option. This evaluation should include the need for any further action to improve the well security, continue with well development, or add equipment to improve well water quality.  In some cases, water treatment systems are installed as an additional barrier or layer of protection.  In many cases, the only type of additional treatment that is needed is a whole-house particle filter and a sanitary well cap.  For information on Do-it-Yourself Water Treatment Systems.

Well and System Maintenance

At a minimum, the well water system should go through an annual inspection.  This inspection could be associated with the annual water quality test or inspection of any water treatment systems.  During this evaluation, the aesthetic quality of the water should be evaluated and some basic field water quality screening should be conducted.   For the field water screening, it is possible this can be done using a number of low-cost meters or an informational water quality screening test.

Annual Water Testing

Depending on the results of the initial evaluation, the results should be evaluated to determine what are the water quality parameters that should be monitored to help track the general water quality of the well.  If a water treatment system was installed, the annual water quality evaluation should include the performance of the water treatment system.  If you need help with determining what you need, WE can Help – Here is a partial listing of the informational water screening tests !  The Keystone Clean Water Team can provide guidance on the selection of water quality parameters, review water quality data, and make recommendations on the water quality parameters.  At a minimum, the Keystone Clean Water Team offers a Health Screen Test (only $ 50 if you have the sample bottles (video)) and testing includes bacteria, pH, conductivity, iron, manganese (if suspected), nitrate, total dissolved solids, total hardness, and alkalinity (Health Screen Test Order Form).    If you are interested, you may want to obtain a copy of our Educational Booklet and Brochure.

To Review a Number of our Case Studies – Common Private Well Problems and Fixes.

Everything we do began with an idea.

We have offered “Free” Assistance to this effort, but if you are a private well owner that needs assistance we are happy to help.

We realize your time is precious and the world is hectic. CCGG’s volunteers do only what they’re comfortable with. It can be a little or a lot.  Get YOUR WATER Tested – Discounted Screening Tests !

For more information, please go to CCGG’s About Page or contact us.  Follow us on Twitter 

Keystone Clean Water Team is a 501(c)(3) IRS approved nonprofit, volunteer organization and your donation is tax deductible to the extent allowed by law.    Unsolicited donations are appreciated (Helps us complete our mission), but we also do local educational workshops and local cellphone/small electronic recycling programs. If you would like to set up a program to help recycle cellphones at an event, business, or other organization.  Through our program we can recycle  cell phones, iPods, game systems, and small digital cameras.  If your interested, please contact us.

Help the Organization and Get Your Water Tested or Order the Private Well Owner Guide (proceeds benefit This Organization).  Keystone Clean Water Team!

National Protect Your Groundwater Day

Penn State Extension and MWON Promote National Protect Your Groundwater Day—September 10, 2013

protect_dayPenn State Extension and the Master Well Owner Network are excited to announce a variety of educational efforts in recognition of the National Ground Water Association’s Protect Your Groundwater Day on September 10, 2013.

A live webinar will be broadcast from 12:00 to 1:00 PM entitled Strategies to Protect Private Wells and Springs in Pennsylvania to highlight basic management strategies that homeowners can use to protect their drinking water. The webinar will also highlight numerous Penn State publications and web tools that are available to private water well and spring owners. The live webinar can be viewed at

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During the evening of September 10, Penn State water resources educators will present a Safe Drinking Water Clinic in Ebensburg, PA for water well and spring owners. This will be the first in a series of Safe Drinking Water Clinics which will be offered around the state in the next 12 months.

 More information about this online course can be found at:

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The Penn State Extension Water Resources team along with Master Well Owners provide education and assistance for thousands of private water well and spring owners across Pennsylvania each year. Tune in on September 10 to learn more about our resources and how to protect your groundwater!

To learn more about the National Ground Water Association and Protect Your Groundwater Day, visit their website at:

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To celebrate National Protect Groundwater Day – The Carbon County Groundwater Guardians will be participating in the PA Energy Games in Hughesville, PA on September 7, 2013. We will have information on private wells, groundwater, alternative energy, conservation and Biomass.  Stop by and Say Hello !

Support the Local Groundwater Education – Get Your Water Tested !

For information about Carbon County’s Groundwater Guardian activities, contact the  Us.


We seek new people at all skill levels for a variety of programs. One thing that everyone can do is attend meetings to share ideas on improving CCGG, enabling us to better understand and address the concerns of well owners.

Everything we do began with an idea.

We realize your time is precious and the world is hectic. CCGG’s volunteers do only what they’re comfortable with. It can be a little or a lot.

For more information, please go to CCGG’s About Page or contact us.

Carbon County Groundwater Guardians is a 501(c)(3) IRS approved nonprofit, volunteer organization and your donation is tax deductible to the extent allowed by law..  Unsolicited donations are appreciated.

Help the Organization and Get Your Water Tested or Order the Private Well Owner Guide (proceeds benefit This Organization).

Webinar to examine stray shale-gas migration into groundwater

Sampling stray gas that is bubbling up through surface water.

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Investigations into natural gas from shale development migrating into groundwater will be the focus of a free, Web-based seminar offered by Penn State Extension.

To be presented at 1 p.m. on March 21, “A Geochemical Context for Stray Gas Investigations in the Northern Appalachian Basin,” is part of a monthly series of one-hour webinars.

According to presenter Fred Baldassare, senior geoscientist with ECHELON Applied Geoscience Consulting, as shale gas exploration and development has increased over the past five years, stray gas migration in groundwater has become a hot topic. He will discuss the various sources of methane and the need to review each case individually to determine its origin.

“The occurrence of methane in aquifer systems represents a natural condition in many areas of the Appalachian Basin,” he said. “The origin can be the result of microbial and thermogenic processes that convert organic matter in the aquifer strata to methane, and to lower concentrations of ethane and heavier hydrocarbons in some areas of the basin.

“Or it can result from the progressive migration of hydrocarbon gas over geologic time from the source and/or reservoir to the aquifer.”

But in some instances, Baldassare pointed out, the stray gas that occurs in the aquifer and manifests in private water supplies can be the result of gas-well drilling.

“That happens where pressure combines with ineffective casing cement bonds to create pathways,” he said. “Alleged incidents of stray gas migration must be investigated at the site-specific level and must include isotope geochemistry to determine gas origin and diagnostic evidence to determine a mechanism of migration.”

Presented by Penn State Extension’s Marcellus Education Team, the monthly natural-gas webinars usually are offered from 1 p.m. to 2 p.m. on Thursdays. Upcoming webinars will cover the following topics:

–April 24: Utica Reservoirs — Mike Arthur, Penn State professor of geosciences and co-director of the Penn State Marcellus Center for Outreach and Research.

–May 16: Shale Energy Development’s Effect on the Posting, Bonding and Maintenance of Roads in Rural Pennsylvania — Mark Gaines, Pennsylvania Department of Transportation Bureau of  Maintenance, Operations and Roadway Management, and Tim Ziegler, Penn State Larson Transportation Institute, Center for Dirt and Gravel Road Studies.

–June 20: Royalty Calculations for Natural Gas from Shale — Jim Ladlee, associate director, Penn State Marcellus Center for Outreach and Research.

Previous webinars, publications and information also are available on the Penn State Extension natural-gas website (, covering a variety of topics, such as Act 13; seismic testing; air pollution from gas development; water use and quality; zoning; gas-leasing considerations for landowners; gas pipelines and right-of-way issues; legal issues surrounding gas development; and the impact of Marcellus gas development on forestland.

Registration for this webinar is not necessary, and all are welcome to participate by logging in to . For more information, contact Carol Loveland at 570-320-4429 or by email at .

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Carbon County Groundwater Guardians is a 501(c)(3) IRS approved nonprofit, volunteer organization and your donation is tax deductible to the extent allowed by law. Well water testing and educational program.

 Carbon County Groundwater Guardians on Facebook

The Potential for Waterborne Spread of MRSA

One Bad Bug

By Kelly A. Reynolds, MSPH, PhD , Associate Professor at the University of Arizona College of Public Health

The emergence and increased prevalence of the ‘superbug’ bacterium known as MRSA (methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus), has raised questions as to the routes of transmission related to disease. Reports of MRSA infections in the general population and evidence of the bacteria surviving in wastewater, tap water and drinking water biofilms creates alarm in the public and warrants a discussion of whether or not MRSA infections occur from tapwater exposures.

Read more (pdf)

The Potential for Waterborne Spread of MRSA

Key to cleaner environment may be right beneath our feet

Lin and his crew working in Penn State’s Living Filter, surveying the subsurface using an electromagnetic induction device.

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — While many people recognize that clean water and air are signs of a healthy ecosystem, most do not realize that a critical part of the environment is right beneath their feet, according to a Penn State hydrologist.

The ground plays an important role in maintaining a clean environment by serving as a natural water filtration and purification system, said Henry Lin, professor of hydropedology and soil hydrology. Understanding the components that make up this integral part of the ecosystem can lead to better groundwater management and smarter environmental policy.

“We look at nature and we see all the beauty and all the prosperity around us,” said Lin, “But most people don’t know or tend to forget that the key to sustainability is right underground.”

Lin, who reports on his research today (Feb. 17) at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in Boston, said that the earth’s outer layer — from the top vegetation canopy to the strata of soils and layers of underground material — helps soak up and purify water by extracting excess nutrients, heavy metals and other impurities. The ground can also act as a storage container for freshwater.

About 60 percent of the world’s annual precipitation ends up in this zone, Lin said.

“In fact, there is more water under the ground than there is in the so-called ‘blue waters,’ such as lakes and rivers,” said Lin.

Besides using freshwater for drinking, people use large amounts of water to irrigate agricultural fields and as part of industrial operations. The researcher said that just as a global green revolution raised awareness about food security, a “blue revolution” may lead to efforts to water security with clean, safe water supply around the globe.

“Without water there is no life,” Lin said. “Without groundwater, there is no clean water.”

Lin said that the system is currently under threat from poor land management practices that fail to consider how ground water is affected by land uses, such as new building projects, underground storage and  agricultural operations. Planners should consider, for example, how the ground and plants in an area can affect water run-off. In some cases, not taking the ground and underground features of an area into consideration can lead to flooding, or to the addition of impurities into drinking water supplies.

Besides reaching out to managers and planners, Lin said that the general public also must become more aware of groundwater management issues.

“In a lot of cases, for the general public and even people from government agencies and funding agencies, it’s out of sight, out of mind,” Lin said. “But, beneath the surface lies the foundation of our sustainability.”

Registration open for May 8 Pa. Groundwater Symposium

‘Emerging Issues in a Changing Landscape’ is the theme of the event.

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — In observance of National Drinking Water Week, Penn State Extension and the state Department of Environmental Protection are collaborating with numerous other sponsors to offer the 2013 Pennsylvania Groundwater Symposium.

Scheduled for May 8 at Penn State’s University Park campus, registration for the event now is open at this website and is limited to the first 150 registrants.

“Emerging Issues in a Changing Landscape” is the theme of the symposium, which will provide a forum for researchers, students, professionals and educators working in the groundwater field to exchange information and promote protection of groundwater resources throughout the state.

“Millions of Pennsylvanians rely on groundwater for their drinking water,” said symposium coordinator Bryan Swistock, extension water resources specialist. “National Drinking Water Week provides the perfect opportunity for us to convene a symposium of groundwater experts who can share information to better understand and protect this vital natural resource.”

Morning and afternoon keynote speakers will address important water issues in Pennsylvania, including emerging contaminants and the potential impacts of natural-gas development.

The symposium also will feature several concurrent sessions with presentations on groundwater budgets and yields, tools for describing groundwater during natural-gas exploration, and broader studies characterizing groundwater and water wells.

A lengthy afternoon break and poster session will allow attendees to network while viewing numerous poster presentations. Abstracts for additional poster presentations will be accepted through April 3 on the registration website.

A nominal registration fee of $30 for the symposium is made possible by funding support from Penn State Extension and its Master Well Owner Network, the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection, the Mid-Atlantic Water Program, the Pennsylvania Ground Water Association and the Penn State Water Resources Research Center.

Additional partnering agencies include the U.S. Geological Survey and the Susquehanna River Basin Commission.

For more information, contact Swistock at 814-863-0194 or by email at

Online survey to gauge opinions about Pennsylvania’s water resources
Friday, January 25, 2013

Researchers want to learn more about what water issues are most important to residents.

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Pennsylvanians can express their opinions about the state’s water resources by filling out a brief online survey conducted by Penn State’s College of Agricultural Sciences and several partner agencies.

Researchers are interested in learning what residents believe about the current status of the Keystone State’s water and how they think funding and other resources should be prioritized to best protect and manage water resources.

The objective is to collect opinions from thousands of Pennsylvania residents, according to Bryan Swistock, Penn State Extension water resources specialist, who is coordinating the research.

He noted that the informal survey is intended as a public engagement project and does not necessarily represent a statistical sampling of opinions.

The five-minute survey can be completed at

“This is your chance to be heard on the value and importance of water resources in Pennsylvania,” Swistock said. “We really need to learn more about what water resources issues are most important to the people of Pennsylvania so we can provide this information to both policymakers and those who fund water resources research.”

The survey, which will close Feb. 28, is open to Pennsylvania residents who are at least 18 years of age. A summary of results will be published this spring on the Pennsylvania Water Resources Research Center website,

This survey is funded by the Pennsylvania Water Resources Research Center and Sea Grant Pennsylvania in partnership with Penn State Extension and the Pennsylvania American Water Resources Association.

Other Surveys

PA Residents – Marcellus Shale Concerns
Well Owners from Other States – Concerns Related to Shale Development

Online Class for Homeowners with Private Wells

The Private Well Class is a free online service, grant-funded to educate homeowners about their private wells.

The Rural Community Assistance Partnership has received a grant from the USEPA to develop a free, online class for homeowners with private wells. We ask that you help promote the class with well owners and those that serve them in your region. If your organization has little contact with private well owners, please feel free to pass this information along to others who might be interested.

The class is set up to be self-help over 10 weeks, with materials emailed once a week to participants. Well owners can sign up anytime, and though the first week was sent on Jan 2, 2013, anyone signing up after that will start as soon as they sign up. So, someone just finding out about this in April can sign up and start the class then. There are three webinars that will provide well owners a chance to reinforce what they are seeing in the class material and ask questions of the presenters. Each webinar will be repeated every three months through August 2013, so no matter when someone starts the class, they will be able to see all three at least once.

Please take a look at the materials attached, visit the website [ ] and we encourage you to sign up as a partner. Partners will receive an email when a new webinar date is announced, or when additional information is added to the website. If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to contact me.

Cassia Smith


PA Groundwater Online Survey
National Groundwater Issues Online Survey
For Local Case Studies on Groundwater Quality
More Videos on Groundwater Education

Adult volunteer leaders sought for 4-H Stream Teams program
Wednesday, January 2, 2013

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Penn State Extension is offering environmentally minded Pennsylvania adults the chance to share their interests with young people in their community.

Extension is seeking volunteers for its 4-H Stream Teams program, which guides youths in learning about local water resources and encourages them to become water stewards and involved citizens, now and in the  future.

A four-part, Web-based training series for prospective 4-H Stream Teams adult volunteers will begin Jan. 29. Each live, one-hour webinar will be offered at noon and repeated at 7 p.m.:

— Jan. 29, Part 1: What is a 4-H Stream Team?

— Jan. 31, Part 2: Teaching Hands-On Water Education

— Feb. 5, Part 3: Connecting Youth to Local Water Resources

— Feb. 7, Part 4: Leading Youth in Water-Based Service Projects

This free training is open to anyone who already works with youth — such as 4-H volunteers, Scout leaders, camp directors or classroom teachers — and to any adult looking for an opportunity to share their interest in the environment with youth. 4-H programs also provide important leadership, citizenship and life skills that will benefit youth throughout their lives.

Registration for the training is required and can be completed at For more information, contact Jennifer Fetter at or 717-921-8803, or visit

Update -Image provided in the press release was deleted at the request of Jennifer Fetter of PSU on 10/12/2015.

Penn State Master Well Owner Network looking for new volunteers for winter online course


Note – Have a Water Quality Questions – Ask Us Or Visit the Drinking Water Help Guide

Bryan Swistock [ ]
MWON is taking applications for our winter online course which will start on February 11, 2013.  Space is limited to 20 new volunteers

Applications Being Accepted for Next Master Well Owner Course
Pennsylvania is home to over one million private water wells and springs but it is one of the few states that do not provide statewide regulations to protect these rural drinking water supplies.  In 2004, Penn State Cooperative Extension and several partner agencies created the Master Well Owner Network (MWON), a group of trained volunteers who are dedicated to promoting the proper construction, testing, and maintenance of private water wells, springs and cisterns throughout Pennsylvania.  Since its inception, hundreds of MWON volunteers have attended Saturday training workshops to learn about proper water supply management practices. Starting on February 11, 2013, this same training will be available entirely online.

Prospective volunteers need to submit an application and be accepted into the program.  Applications will be limited to about 15 eligible volunteers. Once accepted, each volunteer will receive seven weekly emails with links to short reading assignments and video presentations. Participants in online training will largely be able to determine their own training schedule.  One optional online meeting will be offered in March to help answer questions (attendance at this optional meeting this will require a computer with high speed connection and speakers).

Volunteers who successfully complete the training course and pass a short exam will receive a free copy of the 80 page publication – A Guide to Private Water Systems in Pennsylvania and access to various MWON educational materials.  In return, MWON volunteers are asked to pass along what they have learned to other private water supply owners and submit an annual report of their educational accomplishments.  To learn more and complete an application, visit the following website:

Here are a few comments from volunteers who recently completed the online course:
• I believe people buying homes or properties with wells located on them should have this information prior to purchase. The problem is not many people are aware of the information that is available. Hopefully this course helps correct the problem.
• Excellent opportunity, especially in light of the drilling operations surrounding Marcellus well development activities throughout the state and in the area where I live.
• Very Useful information. The presentation format via adobe connect was very easy to work with.

For Water Testing Go to Private Well Water Testing Program

 New Booklet – PA Guide To Drinking Water – What Do the Numbers Mean?

Free Information at Private Well Owner Outreach and the Water Research Library.


Website Provided for Educational Purpose.

Carbon County Groundwater Guardians is a 501(c)(3) IRS approved nonprofit, volunteer organization and your donation is tax deductible to the extent allowed by law.

 Carbon County Groundwater Guardians on Facebook
More Educational Materials Private Well