AlliedNews.com - Grove City, Pennsylvania

October 22, 2013

Website, group monitor water, educate public

By Monica Pryts/Staff Writer
Allied News

LAWRENCE, MERCER COUNTIES — Members of the Lawrence and Mercer Alliance for Aquatic Resources Monitoring program are continuing to provide tools and resources for area residents to help monitor water quality as gas and oil drilling activities keep moving forward.

"They're going to raise the bar," Dr. Helen Boylan said of gas and oil companies, meaning everyone else "needs to be vigilant" to protect the environment.

Boylan, an associate professor of chemistry and chair of environmental science at Westminster College, New Wilmington, spoke briefly Thursday night at a workshop at the school, where about a dozen people came to learn more about ALLARM, a program founded by Dickinson College in Carlisle, Pa.

Many have been trained through the original program and they pass on their knowledge to teach others how to collect and test water samples from local streams and creeks in an effort to monitor the quality before and after gas and oil drilling to check for contamination.

The data is entered and shared online and a local website has been created and maintained by two Westminster students - Tyler Umstead, a senior chemistry major; and Lance Jubic, a junior biochemistry major.

"We want to make this as easy as possible," Umstead said of the website's various features.

Their website, which also explains the basics of drilling and has a number of helpful links and maps of local drilling sites, is the home base for ALLARM members to plug in data from water samples collected using probes, Umstead said, demonstrating how to operate one.

"You don't have to be a scientist to help out," he said.

The end results are displayed in chart form, making it pretty easy to understand, and local streams have had healthy outcomes, Jubic said.

"It automatically calculates the health of your stream," he said, adding if there is a problem, call the Department of Environmental Protection or local water company.

Carrie Hahn, a member of the Fracking Truth Alliance of Lawrence and Mercer Counties, also spoke at the workshop, saying her group formed about two years ago to provide residents with more information since it seemed they were hearing about only the money they could make from leasing their land for drilling rights.

"We've done a lot of outreach," she said, adding the group has an active Facebook page.

The Fracking Truth Alliance keeps on top of Pennsylvania state legislation related to drilling, local drilling activities, regional pipeline plans, scheduling file reviews at the DEP office and more.

"We need more help," Hahn said of how the group is always looking for new members.

For more information about ALLARM, visit https://sites.google.com/site/lawrencecountyallarm

Published Oct. 2, 2013, in Allied News. Pick up a copy at 201 A Erie St., Grove City.