Tuesday, August 23, 2022

DEP, Williamsport Authority, PA Rural Water Assn., Lycoming County Highlight Importance Of Source Water Protection To Clean Drinking Water

On August 23, the Department of Environmental Protection visited the
Williamsport Municipal Water Authority to tour portions of the reservoir and treatment facilities that provide drinking water to more than 51,000 customers in the greater Williamsport area and discuss the importance of proactive source water protection efforts to maintaining water quality.

Representatives from the Pennsylvania Rural Water Association and Lycoming County Department of Planning and Community Development also attended and joined in the discussion.

During the tour, representatives from DEP’s Northcentral Regional Office viewed portions of the WMWA facilities, including the reservoir, flow bay, pump station, and filtration plant.

The term “source water” describes any water source, such as groundwater, rivers, lakes, reservoirs, and springs, used to provide water to public drinking water supplies. DEP assists water systems with funding for the development of source water protection plans and encourages ongoing plan implementation activities.

“Protecting source water from potential contamination reduces the need, and cost, for water treatment; extends the life of wells, treatment facilities, and other infrastructure; and provides auxiliary benefits to the community and environment, such as pollution reduction, green space preservation, and outdoor recreation,” said Jared Dressler, Acting Regional Director of DEP’s Northcentral Regional Office.

“WMWA is committed to a long-term effort to preserve the quality of our valuable water supply resource, which is so important to the economy and public health of the Greater Williamsport area,” said WMWA Executive Director Michael Miller.

Water systems that participate in DEP’s Source Water Protection program are required to submit annual updates to DEP that outline their source water protection goals, efforts, and partnerships, as well as an inventory of potential sources of contamination (PSOCs).

“WMWA’s annual updates are some of the most detailed that I have received and show their high level of commitment to source water protection,” said Edie Gair, a geologist with DEP’s Safe Drinking Water Program.

“A source water protection plan can’t just sit on the shelf,” said Miller. “Our plan was completed and approved by DEP thirteen years ago, but we keep our plan fresh and updated. WMWA practices a proactive watershed protection program including control and ownership of land, seeking of conservation easements on privately held land, and patrolling and monitoring for water quality.”

WMWA’s Board of Directors allocates annual funds for source water protection efforts, including testing raw water sources in rotating locations for different parameters and working with industrial water and sewer customers to implement pretreatment programs for wastewater, resulting in cleaner wastewater discharges into local water bodies.

Source water protection tools in DEP-approved plans should be tailored to local conditions and can include: developing emergency response plans for spills in source water protection zones; restoring streams, streambanks, and riparian areas to reduce pollution; employing best management practices for agriculture, forestry, and stormwater control; and protecting the land surrounding wellheads and sensitive areas through purchase, property easements, or municipal zoning ordinances.

“One of the best and most economical source water protection management tools is public education,” said Gair. “WMWA accomplishes this through educational programming and by incorporating educational components into recreational opportunities for visitors to their watershed property, including environmental education trails such as the Bluebird Trail and annual events like bike races and cross country runs.”    

Tour attendees also visited the Waterdale Environmental Education Center, the historic caretaker’s lodge on the WMWA property that has been converted into a facility for community education and outreach programs emphasizing science and stewardship of natural resources and public water supply sources. 

WMWA works with DEP, Lycoming College, Lycoming County Conservation District, Lycoming County Audubon Society, and other trusted partners to deliver educational programming at the facility.  

“PRWA applauds Williamsport Municipal Water Authority’s proactive approach to sustainability through development and continued implementation of their source water protection plan,” said Kurtis Wagner, sourcewater protection specialist with the Pennsylvania Rural Water Association, which works with community water systems to preserve and protect drinking water sources across Pennsylvania. “Ongoing source water protection efforts help preserve the quality of source water and resiliency of the water system. This is an example to be followed by water systems across the region and state.”  

More information about source water protection can be found at the U.S. EPA website

[Posted: August 23, 2022]  PA Environment Digest

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