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PEC Urges Senate To Pass Water Well Standards Bill To Protect Rural Water Supplies

The PA Environmental Council Friday urged members of the Pennsylvania Senate to pass House Bill 343 (Miller-R-York) designed to help protect rural water supplies by requiring the adoption of construction and decommissioning standards for private water wells.

The legislation, sponsored by Rep. Ron Miller (R-York), Majority Chair of the House Environmental Resources and Energy Committee, passed the state House by an overwhelming bipartisan vote.

“This is a public health and environmental priority for Pennsylvania,” said Davitt Woodwell, President and CEO of PEC. “At a time when we are worried about impacts to water supplies from natural gas development and other activities, we need to take every reasonable step necessary to protect drinking water supplies for everyone.

“We only have a few session days left in the General Assembly before we need to start all over again. This legislation has the support of private and public stakeholders throughout the Commonwealth, and has already received robust approval in the House. We need the Senate to get this legislation across the finish line,” said Woodwell.

Video On Water Well Bill

As part of their message to members of the Senate, PEC released a video interview with the legislation’s sponsor – Rep. Ron Miller – to explain the bill’s intent and substance.

“More than three million Pennsylvanians rely on private wells for drinking water,” said Rep. Miller. “Our citizens have a right to clean drinking water, and my bill addresses the health risks associated with an unsafe water supply.”

“I commend the local water and municipal authorities around the state that have taken into account the best interests of their residents and already established their own standards,” Rep. Miller added. “These affected counties and municipalities would be allowed to keep in place their current water well regulations.”

“Nowhere in my bill are water metering, fees for private water usage, shutting off existing wells or regulation of water usage mentioned,” Rep. Miller pointed out. “The first attempt to move this legislation 12 years ago was shut down by a campaign of misinformation based on these beliefs, and these allegations are untrue.

Rep. Miller noted Pennsylvania is one of two states in the nation that has not adopted such standards.

“We are simply looking to protect our citizens’ right to safe drinking water going forward,” said Rep. Miller.

Text Of PEC Message To Senate

The text of PEC’s message to Senate members follows--

On behalf of the Pennsylvania Environmental Council, I am writing to express our strong support for House Bill 343 (P.N. 2004), which would establish water well construction and decommissioning standards. This legislation passed the House in June with strong bipartisan support, and now faces a very short voting opportunity in the Senate.

Pennsylvania remains one of only two states in the nation that has not enacted private water well standards. Without question, this is a critical public health concern for a large percentage of Pennsylvanians throughout the Commonwealth.

Improperly constructed water wells can lead to poor water quality by providing pathways for bacteria and contaminants such as methane gas to migrate into water supplies. Ensuring that wells are constructed properly from the start will help to prevent water quality and public health problems in the future.

House Bill 343 is a balanced approach to this issue, and does not require metering of private wells (prohibited pursuant to Act 220 of 2002). Rep. Ron Miller, the bill’s sponsor, joined us for a video interview about the need for this legislation. You can view the interview here.

This legislation has broad and diverse support, and deserves Senate consideration before the end of this year. We respectfully ask that you ensure this important bill is considered in the limited number of session days remaining. Thank you for your consideration.

-- John Walliser, Vice President, Legal & Government Affairs, PA Environmental Council

Background On Water Wells In PA

According to the Penn State Cooperative Extension, more than 1 million water wells serve over 3.5 million residents in Pennsylvania (second only to Michigan), with approximately 20,000 new water wells drilled each year.

According to a 2009 Center for Rural PA Study, approximately 41 percent of private water wells in Pennsylvania failed to meet at least one of the health-based drinking water standards.

Poorly or improperly constructed water wells can result in pathways for bacteria and other contaminants, such as naturally occurring shallow methane, to migrate into the potable water supply.

Pennsylvania remains one of only two states without statewide private water well construction standards.

In 2011, the Governor’s Marcellus Shale Advisory Commission became the latest group to recommend the adoption of drinking water well standards.

Check out these drinking water well resources:

-- PA Geologic Survey's Gary Fleeger steps through how a well is drilled and what to look for to keep your water source in good shape.  Click Here to watch this video.

-- Penn State Extension: Maintaining Private Water Supply Wells

-- Penn State Extension: Decommissioning Water Wells Safely

-- Penn State: Pre-Drilling Water Data Demonstrates Need For Private Well Testing

-- Penn State Extension: Master Well Owner Network

-- Center for Rural PA Study Shows Improvements, Problems In Private Water Wells

-- DEP’s Private Water Wells webpage.


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