New state laws on gas well drilling should provide greater protection for water resources – as long as they’re followed. That was a message delivered by a Pa. Dept. of Environmental Protection (DEP) representative during the recent Triple Divide Watershed Coalition meeting in Potter County. Mark Stephens (right), a geologist who has been advising area officials on sourcewater protection issues, said the state’s new regulations include larger buffer zones between drilling sites and water supplies, as well as stricter well casing standards. He added that energy companies may decide not to drill for gas on leases in close proximity to an abandoned well, since capping those wells may be prohibitively expensive.
John McLaughlin (left), chairman of the Triple Divide Watershed Coalition, said that while the regulations are stricter, they still lack one important provision that’s near and dear to the hearts of coalition members. “There’s a missing part that is critical,” McLaughlin said. “Public water recharge zones need to be put into the DEP permit review process so that any wells proposed anywhere close to those areas receive extra scrutiny and the companies have to get the water system’s approval to drill.” Erica Tomlinson of the Tioga County Conservation District showed coalition members maps that have been created in Tioga to identify critical public water source recharge areas. Coalition chairman John McLaughlin suggested that the Triple Divide organization seek funding to produce similar maps for Potter County.
Attending the meeting were John Van Zandt, DEP; Don Muir, Pa. Rural Water Assn.; Potter County Commissioners Paul Heimel, Susan Kefover and Doug Morley; Jason Childs, Potter County Conservation District; Charlotte Dietrich and Debra Ostrom, Potter County Planning Department; and local public water system operators from Coudersport, Watrous, Genesee, Roulette, Galeton and Shinglehouse.
Potter County Today is a timely information site courtesy of the Potter County Commissioners. Reprinted with Permission.