Friday, November 30, 2012

Groundwater Drinking Water in Pennsylvania

The primary sources of usable water is Pennsylvania include rainwater , stream inflow from other states, surface water (stored in lakes, streams, and ponds), and groundwater. In 1966, it was estimated that Pennsylvanians use approximately 6.6 billion gallons of water per day and there is approximately 80 trillion gallons of groundwater and only 2.5 trillion gallons of surface water (DCNR, Educational Series 3: " The Geology of Pennsylvania's Groudwater"). Below the freshwater aquifer, the bedrock contains salt or brine water. This brine water is likely water that was trapped in the formation or material during deposition.
Because of the rural nature of Pennsylvania, groundwater provides approximately 85 percent of the water used for human consumption, but because it is difficult to see how water moves through the soil, unconsolidated material (sand and gravel) and bedrock, it has mystified individuals. For some homeowners, they believe that the groundwater comes from a vast underground lake or from underground streams that come from Canada, Virginia, Vermont, or even Maine. Even through there is a large database of information on groundwater in Pennsylvania, it still is difficult to really document the total available resource and actual movement and quantity without implementing a very elaborate system of monitoring wells, observation points, and background water quality data.

The hydrologic cycle describes the constant movement of water above, on, and below the earth's surface. As part of this cycle, water is transformed between liquid, solid and gases states. Condensation, evaporation and freezing of water occur in the cycle in response to the earth's climatic conditions.

The hydrologic cycle can begin with water evaporation from the earth's soil, plant and water surfaces to form water vapor. The energy required to evaporate water is supplied by the sun- Therefore the System is Solar Powered. Most of the evaporation occurs near the equator in the open ocean. It is estimated that 39 inches of water annually evaporate from each acre of ocean. Water vapor is drawn into the atmosphere by temperature gradients and can be transported over hundreds of miles by large air masses. When water vapor cools, it condenses to form clouds. As water condenses within clouds, water droplets increase in size until they fall to the earth's surface as precipitation such as rainfall, hail, sleet, or snow.
Approximately 50 to 90 percent of the water that falls to the earth's surface enters the soil. This water can become groundwater, but most of it evaporates from the soil surface or is used by vegetation via evapotranspriation (ET) or infiltrations into the surface and flows to streams and springs as interflow. Water that passes through the root zone may continue to move downward to reach the groundwater. In soils with fragipans, claypans or other low permeable strata of a limited extent, this water may create a seasonal high or perched water table. The distance water has to travel to reach groundwater can range from a few feet to hundreds of feet. Water movement toward groundwater may take hours or years, depending on the depth to the aquifer and the characteristics of the unsaturated zone.

For Pennsylvania, the annual precipitation ranges from 30 to 60 inches per year with a mean rainfall of approximately 41 inches. Approximately 55 to 60 percent of the precipitation occurs during the warmer months. Of this approximately, 20 inches or more is returned to the atmosphere via evapotranspiration (ET) or evaporation, 12 to 15 inches infiltrates into the groundwater system, and direct runoff accounts for approximately 6 to 12 inches of water. Groundwater storage in Pennsylvania is equivalent to approximately 100 inches of water, but a more conservative estimate is 47 trillion gallons (60 inches), of which, 9 to 12 trillion is naturally discharged to springs, seeps, streams, and lakes.  Therefore, groundwater is not only used for drinking water, but the discharge of groundwawter to the surface and near-surface provides the necessary baseflow to support the aquatic habitats in Pennsylvania.  (Groundwater and Surfacewater are Connected - they both must be properly managed).
For the full report - Free Go to our website !

Important Quotes
"More than one million private water systems exist in Pennsylvania, and 20,000 new wells are drilled each year in the state. There are no statewide regulations for private water systems--management is entirely voluntary."

"Up to 50% of private wells in PA - DO NOT meet primary drinking water standards" - Therefore, if these wells were regulated they would be classified as NOT Potable.

This is a problem - It is time to take action - Here is what you can do.

1. Learn More about Groundwater in PA
2. If you have certified baseline testing data - submit the data to the Citizen Database
3. Participate in Our Citizen Web- Survey - PA Residents - Residents outside of PA
4. Get your water tested - Informational Testing - Certified Testing
5. Our new booklet for Private Well Owners in PA
6. Methane Gas Migration
7. Our Free Online Help Guide - If you are having a water quality issue
8. Schedule a community education session or workshop

Or email me
Brian Oram, PG

Other resources
Carbon County Groundwater Guardians a member of the master well owners network via Penn State University (PSU and MWON and Brian Swistock)

Hydrologic Cycle

For Pennsylvania, the annual precipitation ranges from 30 to 60 inches per year with a mean rainfall of approximately 41 inches. Approximately 55 to 60 percent of the precipitation occurs during the warmer months. Of this approximately, 20 inches or more is returned to the atmosphere via evapotranspiration (ET) or evaporation, 12 to 15 inches infiltrates into the groundwater system, and direct runoff accounts for approximately 6 to 12 inches of water. Groundwater storage in Pennsylvania is equivalent to approximately 100 inches of water, but a more conservative estimate is 47 trillion gallons (60 inches), of which, 9 to 12 trillion is naturally discharged to springs, seeps, streams, and lakes, see Figure 2. Therefore, groundwater is not only used for drinking water, but the discharge of groundwawter to the surface and near-surface provides the necessary baseflow to support the aquatic habitats in Pennsylvania.

Friday, November 23, 2012

Pennsylvania PA Fuel for Schools and Beyond Program Renewable Energy Systems

 In Pennsylvania, renewable energy sources include wood, wood residue and dedicated agricultural energy crops, also known as biomass. The Pennsylvania Fuels for Schools & Beyond program is helping schools and businesses understand the economic, operational, and environmental benefits of biomass systems.  The program was spearheaded by the Pocono Northeast R&CD Council.

In November 2006 the Pocono Northeast RC&D Council initiated the Pennsylvania Fuels for Schools and Beyond Program. This statewide energy-use initiative, promotes the use of local renewable resources to provide reliable energy for Pennsylvania schools and businesses. With environmental concerns and fuel costs mounting, many Americans are looking for ways to reduce their dependence on fossil fuels and replace them with renewable energy sources. In Pennsylvania, renewable energy sources include wood, wood residue and dedicated agricultural energy crops, also known as biomass. The Pennsylvania Fuels for Schools & Beyond program is helping schools and businesses understand the economic, operational, and environmental benefits of biomass systems. Numerous sources of funding assistance exist for biomass energy systems in Pennsylvania for schools, institutions, greenhouses or other businesses. Both state and federal programs have grant and loan opportunities available at certain times during the year.

• Benton Area School District:

The Council is working in cooperation with the Benton Area School District in Columbia County to install a biomass heating system that will provide heat to both the elementary and middle/high school buildings. The Council was instrumental in assisting the school district with acquiring a $350,000 grant from the PA Energy Development Authority (PEDA) to assist with the installation costs of the biomass heating system. Currently, the district’s heating system is a hot water boiler fueled with oil with an average heating load requirement of approximately 45,000 gallons of oil or more per year needed to heat both schools. Through this project, the district is going to be installing a biomass boiler system that will be able to produce approximately 80% or more of the schools heating requirements throughout the entire heating season. By using biomass it will offset almost 36,000 gallons of oil that will not be needed.

• Biomass & Renewable Fuel Development Utilizing Pelletized Grasses Project

The Council is working in cooperation with numerous partners to facilitate the growth of grassland agriculture systems which can provide economically competitive and more environmentally friendly fuel choices for consumer energy needs. The “Biomass & Renewable Fuel Development Utilizing Pelletized Grasses Project” focuses on the construction and subsequent demonstration of a mobile pelletizing unit that will densify grassland biomass fuel for direct combustion for heat and energy. This unit will be used as an important demonstration tool for this technology in the marketplace. By demonstrating this relatively small-scale, affordable, conversion technology to the public, the project will serve as proof of technology to farmers and landowners interested in energy production on the land and will facilitate the integration of this equipment into the local agriculture community. In addition, public awareness will be raised concerning the very real benefits of grassland agriculture and will demonstrate to the general public how they can, as consumers, make choices which help to protect the integrity of their rural communities and environments.
Contact Bob Thomas for information on Biomass Energy Sourcing
Phone: 570-470-1305

Contact Information

Mailing Address:

P. O. Box 432
Dalton, Pennsylvania 18414

Telephone Number:

Links to Training Courses

Baseline Water Testing Southwestern Pennsylvania

The Need for the Water Research Center and Help for Private Well Owners in 

Southwestern Pennsylvania, Pennsylvania, and other states.
Why I do the work I do .
At the - we get about 500 to 1500 unique visitors per day, but very few emails.  In most cases, private well owners find the information they need for free. 

Well Today I Received the following:

"I recently had my water tested at our lake cabin.  It has been in the family for decades.  The cabin is in the woods near a small lake.  The water started to develop a taste and now that water seems to have a lot of gas bubbles.  We have one of the deepest wells at the lake.  The well is 400 feet deep.  Here is the data:
pH - 8.75
Conductivity - 1875 us/cm
Methane - 17.8 mg/L
Ethane - < 0.02 mg/L
Propane - < 0.01 mg/L

Any thoughts?

Signed P

Well P,
1. Thanks for supporting the citizens groundwater and surfacewater database.
2. Since you say you have no previous water quality data, it is difficult to really compare, but based on the data there appears to be a change in the quality.  Why ? Not sure.
3. The high pH, conductivity, and high gas suggests that this could be in issue related to saline water migration.
4. I would recommend the following
a. Go to this website and read the information on methane gas and private wells .  Based on the ratio of methane to ethane - I would suspect the source is biogenic gas, but more testing would be needed.

b. Contact the PADEPNote:  Any time the level of methane is at or greater than 7 mg/L - Contact- PADEP and the Local Natural Gas Company in Your Area – Under Oil and Gas Law- Section 78.89 – “When an operator or owner is notified of or otherwise made aware of a POTENTIAL natural gas migration incident, the operator shall immediately conduct an investigation of the incident”.

c. Get a more comprehensive water test - if you have no baseline testing and not much money consider conducting an informational water test to screen the sample or speak to your neighbors and see if they have any baseline data.  When you decide the direction you are going to proceed - let me know.  I can provide more guidance.

d. I checked the citizen database -I am sorry to say we do not have much data for your area -  but please let people know about the citizen groundwater database it is easy to submit data to the database and it is FREE.

e. Because of the high conductivity, I can only suspected that there are elevated levels of barium and other constituents in the water.  It may be advisable to use bottled water for drinking until you get more information.

Again - I hope this helps.
We need to work as a Community

Mr. Brian Oram, PG

PS- New Educational Guide for Private Well Owners in Pennsylvania.

baseline water testing pennsylvania, natural gas development, private wells lake community, southwestern pennsylvania, wyoming county, natural gas, southwestern pennsylvania, pennsylvania groundwater quality

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Licensed Professional and Certified Water Operators Training Course

Advance Industrial Wastewater Treatment Training Course

"With a worldwide focus on water quality and management, the fate of wastewater generated by industry is more important than ever.  This 3-hour interactive online course will review chemical, physical and biological treatment technologies for industrial wastewater and industrially impacted groundwater:

It is assumed that students already have a working knowledge of industrial wastewater treatment, either through their own experience or through taking the course 'Basics of Industrial Wastewater Treatment' also offered>.
This course includes a multiple-choice quiz at the end of each section. This course also includes Word document and Power Point Slide downloads.  You must have Flash Player Version 7 or higher to view some parts of this course. We also recommend you view this course in Internet Explorer.

Learning Objectives

Goals of the course are to introduce engineers and other professionals to the following technologies for industrial wastewater treatment:

  • Chemical Treatment
    • Neutralization
    • Oxidation/reduction
    • Precipitation
    • Coagulation/flocculation
    • Ion exchange
  • Physical Treatment
    • Air stripping
    • Carbon adsorption
    • Clarification
    • Filtration
    • Membranes
  • Biological Treatment
    • Microbial factors
    • Engineering factors
    • Reactors
    • Methods
Students who have successfully completed the course will then have a much better understanding of these technologies, and will be able to evaluate which may be applicable for their situation.  References for further study will also be provided. 
To learn more about this course and other courses, visit B.F. Environmental Consultants Online Education Portal

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Residents moving forward with baseline water testing Corry, PA

This is not my work
This was written by

"A group of community members, led by two nonprofit environmental groups, are taking steps to protect their private water wells.
With a proposed wastewater injection operation expected to take place in Columbus Township and the likelihood the area will undergo drilling for Utica Shale gas, people here are exploring their options in keeping their drinking water safe.
"I credit you for being proactive," said Brian Oram of B.F. Environmental Consultants, who is a licensed geologist and soil scientist. "You all have to work as a community."
Oram, who has 20 years of experience in applied earth and environmental sciences, gave a three-hour presentation Saturday at the First United Methodist Church of Corry on the importance of baseline private water well testing.
About 40 residents attended the discussion that was sponsored by The Brokenstraw Watershed Council and the Caldwell Creek Chapter of Trout Unlimited.
See Monday, November 5, 2012 issue of The Journal for complete story"


1. My presentation will be posted at
2. Very Nice Group.
3. Happy to work on community related projects
4. Do not forget to support the Citizen Database

Friday, November 2, 2012

Marcellus Shale water-quality testing practices White calls on state, federal authorities for investigation of DEP

White calls on state, federal authorities for investigation of DEP over deceptive Marcellus Shale water-quality testing practices
Testimony by DEP lab chief reveals possibility of intentionally undisclosed public health risks from Marcellus Shale gas drilling

HARRISBURG, Nov. 1 – State Rep. Jesse White, D-Allegheny/Beaver/Washington, today called for state and federal law enforcement agencies to investigate the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection for alleged misconduct and fraud revealed by sworn testimony given by a high-ranking DEP official.

White said he received a letter and corresponding documents highlighting the sworn testimony of DEP Bureau of Laboratories Technical Director Taru Upadhyay, who was deposed in a lawsuit alleging nearby natural gas drilling operations contaminated drinking water supplies in Washington County, causing serious health issues. In the deposition, Upadhyay said that the DEP was clearly aware of water impacts from Marcellus Shale drilling, but no notices of violation were filed – a violation of the state’s Oil & Gas Act.

Of more critical concern to Pennsylvania residents, according to White, was that the deposition revealed that the DEP developed a specialized computer-code system to manipulate the test results for residents whose water was tested by the DEP over concerns of adverse effects from gas drilling operations.

According to the transcripts, which have been filed as exhibits in a related lawsuit in Washington County Court of Common Pleas (Haney et al. v. Range Resources et al., Case No. 2012-3534), the DEP lab would conduct water tests using an EPA-approved standard, but the DEP employee who requested the testing would use a specially designed ‘Suite Code’ which limits the information coming back from the DEP lab to the DEP field office, and ultimately to the property owner.

The code in question, Suite Code 942, was used to test for water contamination associated with Marcellus Shale drilling activities, yet specifically screens out results for substances known to be hazardous and associated with Marcellus Shale drilling. Similar codes, Suite Code 943 and 946, are also used by the DEP in similar circumstances; both of these codes omit the presence or levels of drilling-related compounds.

As a result, if Suite Code 942 is applied, the report generated for the homeowner by DEP only includes eight of the 24 metals actually tested for: Barium, Calcium, Iron, Potassium, Magnesium, Manganese, Sodium and Strontium. The homeowner would not be given results for: Silver, Aluminum, Beryllium, Cadium, Cobalt, Chromium, Copper, Nickel, Silicon, Lithium, Molybdenum, Tin, Titanium, Vandium, Zinc and Boron.

“This is beyond outrageous. Anyone who relied on the DEP for the truth about whether their water has been impacted by drilling activities has apparently been intentionally deprived of critical health and safety information by their own government,” White said. “There is no excuse whatsoever to justify the DEP conducting the water tests and only releasing partial information to residents, especially when the information withheld could easily be the source of the problem. This goes beyond incompetence; this is unlawful and reprehensible activity by the DEP. If these allegations are true, there needs to be a thorough and objective investigation to determine if someone belongs in a jail cell.”

White continued: “I am not releasing this information to hurt Marcellus Shale development in Pennsylvania, but to help ensure the reality matches the rhetoric. The Marcellus boom was built on the assumption that the DEP was competent and capable of balancing the positive impacts of the industry with its job of keeping residents safe and secure, but we now know that simply isn’t the case. Like most of us, I want the Marcellus Shale industry to succeed by doing things the right way, so it is crucial to find out what exactly the DEP was up to. If the system is indeed rigged, we must do everything in our power to root out corruption and restore public confidence in our ability to have an honest conversation with one another about developing a responsible energy policy for Pennsylvania.”

Due to the strong possibility of unlawful conduct, White is calling on the U.S. Attorney’s office, the Environmental Protection Agency, state Attorney General Linda Kelly and any other appropriate law enforcement agency to pursue an investigation of the DEP to discover the scope and depth of this scheme to withhold important information from Pennsylvanians. White is also sending a letter to the National Environmental Laboratory Accreditation Program (NJ-NELAP), to investigate whether the DEP’s conduct and practices violated the accreditation standards for the DEP laboratories. If accreditation standards were violated, White is requesting the DEP’s accreditation be stripped, rendering the agency unable to conduct and certify its own tests.

White said he is sending a letter to DEP Secretary Michael Krancer seeking a summary of how many constituents in his legislative district, which includes communities with high levels of Marcellus Shale drilling activity, had DEP tests done using Suite Codes 942, 943 or 946. White also intends to make a blanket request on behalf of his constituents that DEP release the full testing data directly to the individual property owners in question.

Any Pennsylvania resident who received water quality test results from the DEP should look for the number 942, 943 or 946 as a ‘Suite Code’ or ‘Standard Analysis’. White encouraged anyone with questions to contact his district office at 724-746-3677 for more information and noted that the property owner should be entitled to the complete testing results from DEP.

“This isn’t a technicality, and it isn’t something which can be ignored,” White said. “We are talking about people’s health, safety and welfare. The sworn testimony from inside the DEP about a scheme to withhold vital information about potential water contamination is truly alarming. An investigation is necessary to answer these serious allegations.”

The letter sent to Rep. White alerting him of these issues can be found at:

The deposition of TaruUpadhyay, technical director of PA DEP Laboratory can be found at:  (this is a must read- it is rather long - but well worth reading)

1. This is one reason we support and encourage other Private Well Owners to Contribute and Participate in the Citizens Groundwater and Surfacewater Database.
2. Get a Copy of the new Booklet on PA Groundwater Quality.

3. After getting your data from a Gas Company, PADEP or a Laboratory -  Have a professional review your water testing results.  Some assistance is free.  We have conducted talks for lake associations, community groups, royalty owner groups, and have assisted 1000s of private wells on this issue. Consider visiting our webportal at or -

Currently we are doing a well by well review of the Dimock, PA data and we added to our Website some Case Studies.

4. All data should be released to Homeowners - but the data needs to be explained.  You can not release data without a proper understanding of the data and an explaination. Need Help - Visit the Water Research Center -

5. The laboratory should not explain the data or the results- this could take and would, in my opinion, take them out of their role as in unbiased party.  The results should be explained by PADEP Officials, Other Educators, or Professionals. Private wells owners can always seek advice from professionals and we have conducted many outreach programs to help explain the results of baseline testing, help homeowners take action, and take the necessary  actions to confirm and fix a problem.  If this is part of a lawsuit - then the legal counsel should seek the advice of a professional.   If this is a homeowner - they could contact a local licensed professional or PSU provides outreach in this area or contact us.  This was one reason we created the education guide.

6. Laboratory could consider reporting detects for other parameters as tentatively identified (TICs), but I am not sure the homeowners would understand.  The laboratory can only report certified data that the laboratory procedures have been "certified to identify", "results and methods have been confirmed by the QC/QA program, and the results checked for accuracy.  This process does not change or adjust the data, but is an internal process to make sure the data is correct, accurate, and repeatable and not potentially related to a lab accident or error that resulted in a high than actual or lower than present result.  The laboratory testing apparatus may see or potentially identify a compound, but if the spike and recovery testing and the method has not be optimized or certified for this parameter - it can not be reported as part of the certified data.   

Can it be reported ?    I would say yes - but it would have to be clearly identified as an un-certified result and/or a tentatively identified compound and the process would likely need to be documented and reviewed and approved by the certifying organization. This would probably require resampling and specific testing for these TICs.

This change may require a modification to the laboratories database, since most data is uploaded electronically, the database would need to let a user know this type of data is available and it would need to save this level of data as not being certified- this may not be a quick fix.

The problem with going down this direction is the potential for giving private well owners the wrong information or not properly explaining results.  The second issue is that for some parameters there are no formal water quality standards at the Federal Level or in Pennsylvania.  This is not the same throughout the country and some drinking water standards from state to state.  

7. Laboratories should consider reporting the results in standard units and citing the appropriate drinking water limit.  The primary concern is that private wells are not regulated by the federal or state government.  Therefore, this may not be appropriate, but the standards should be listed.   Our old booklet has this information, plus our new booklet has more inforamtion -a pdf version of the old booklet and a request for the new booklet can be found at

8. Also - this is one reason for the variability in the cost of baseline sampling.    A low cost baseline testing may not have a very rigorous team of professionals attempting to ensure the quality and integrity of the data.

9. In many cases, a PADEP sample is being checked to see if the results show impact from a specific activity.  Therefore, a fingerprinting method is used where you look for the target elements.  The TIC approach could help with better identifying other possible sources or requesting additional testing for a different set of parameters.

10. All certified data should be released to the private well owner.   This does not mean all data only the data that is certified - Unless the PADEP develops a process to detect and report TICs.

11. If this is part of a legal action - I strongly recommend that the homeowners and counsel seek the support of other professionals and their own certified laboratories and homeowner consider conducting their own baseline water testing

12. Overall the testimony was very good - I was a little concerned about the specific issues with the sample collection process and lack of training on the chemistry of flow back water.  It is important to note that chain of custody begins and ends with the laboratory  - the sampler is part of this process and sampling is not the beginning of the process.   The PADEP laboratory and/or a consultant should be training all the PADEP field staff.  We are conducting a Chain of Custody Course and Baseline Testing Course at Wilkes University on November 29, 2012

We are Conducting a Training Course for Samplers in March 2013 in Ohio

13. I think it is becoming clear there is a lot of spin on this issue in PA.  My finally thoughts:

a. Is PADEP fudging the data?  NO - The facility is a certified lab that is highly credible.
b. Is PADEP doing its best to explain the process and give confidence to the public?  I guess I would have to say NO - but this can be fixed.
c. Is PADEP providing adequate training to field staff about water quality parameters - From the testimony - I am going to say NO- but this can be fixed.

d. Is PADEP - a third party unbiased organization - I am going to have to say Yes and No- I think  laboratory is clearly unbiased, but the issue of third party is not clear.  The PADEP reviews the permit and gives out the permits, PADEP response to compliants, PADEP agents collect samples, PADEP lab provides data, and PADEP reviews data.  I think they are too involved in the process. 

I would suggest the following: When a homeowner compliants - a PADEP agent should responsed to the call- visit the site and compile information.  Then the PADEP - should hirer a third party professional to review the findings and pre-existing data, and then make a recommendation on what parameters to test.   The third party professional could then submit the samples via the chain of custody process to PADEP.  When the results area available, the third party professional would review, provide comments and suggestions, and the PADEP make final decision.   This way the PADEP will not get in the middle of these situations and could be considered truly a third party.  The cost for this approach to the program - would be covered through a recovery of costs associated with third party sampler and PADEP testing.

Just my thoughts

Brian Oram, Professional Geologist

We are conducting an education outreach program in Corry, PA (November 3, 2012) -
Program went very well - lots of great questions - Beautiful Area !

Schedule a Workshop or Education Program

An article on this topic
PADEP laboratory data natural gas