UPPER DELAWARE - NARROWSBURG - Jamie Knecht of the Wayne County Conservation District discussed the results of a 2014 countywide sampling of water wells, at the November meeting of the Upper Delaware Council (UDC).
A total of 89 wells were tested in order to form a baseline so that the county- and the well owners- have an idea of what is in the water before gas drilling were ever to take place.
Unlike in Susquehanna and Bradford counties, and other areas in north-central and western Pennsylvania, drilling was never commenced in Wayne or Pike counties. These two counties in the northeast fall under the Delaware River Basin Commission, which has established a moratorium on drilling for natural gas within the Marcellus Shale.
The Conservation District received a grant for about $250,000 from the Commonwealth Financing Authority to do this study. Knecht noted that Susquehanna and Bradford counties did not have much in the way of baseline data before drilling was performed. Pike County has also completed a study of there wells.   
Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) and the U.S. Geological Survey partnered in this study, as well as the Commonwealth Financing Authority.
The 89 wells include 10 from a separate 2013 study, that were re-sampled. Over 100 parameters were included, to look for what might occur if hydraulic fracturing were to occur in the process of gas drilling.
About $2,700 to $3,500 worth of testing was done on each well, which the landowners did not have to pay to learn what was in their water.
The Conservation District sent out 245 letters to well owners asking if they’d like to participate, and surprisingly, only 65 replied and agreed to let their well be tested. Knecht said they heard concerns that the Conservation District was either “anti-drilling” or “pro-drilling” and therefore did not want to participate. She explained the District was neither; some then came on board.
Wells were sampled in diverse areas of Wayne County, but most were in the central and southern regions. She said it would have been good to have more in the north where most of the drilling might occur if it was allowed.
Pennsylvania Geological Survey supplied the list of the 245 well owners, because those are the ones the agency had on file. Each time a well is dug, it is supposed to be recorded with the Survey. Knecht said that the state has a serious backlog of entering the data from paper to digital format. Asked how many water wells there are in Wayne County, she guessed in the tens of thousands.
Well owners were eventually notified of the results, once the lab reports came back.
Four of the 89 wells were found to be above the advisory limit for arsenic.
There were 27 wells that exceeded health advisory limits. One of them was verified to have e-coli present, which comes from fecal matter.
The biggest issue found was radon. Knecht said this was not surprising, as radon is known to occur in the local geologic formation.
Methane was another parameter studied.
Land owners were advised about how to treat their well systems if conditions were found warranting action.
For more information contact the Wayne County Conservation District at 570-253-0930.