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PENNSYLVANIA All's well in new bill



Published: Tue, April 23, 2002 @ 12:00 a.m.



Legislators say the bill is limited in its powers.

By HAROLD GWIN

VINDICATOR SHARON BUREAU

SHARON, Pa. -- Did you hear about the pending legislation that will enable the state of Pennsylvania to bill you for the water coming from your private well?

If you did, you heard wrong, according to two local state legislators.

There has been a well-orchestrated attack campaign that is putting out a lot of false information about House Bill 1591, which recently passed the House of Representatives, said Rep. Rod Wilt of Greenville, R-17th.

Designed to protect

The bill is designed to protect groundwater resources, preserve public health and safety and protect consumers from unscrupulous or unskilled drillers, Wilt said."Forget what you've heard. It's time to set the record straight," he said.

House Bill 1591 establishes statewide private water well construction standards and certification requirements for well drillers, he said.

Sen. Mary Jo White of Franklin, R-21st, agreed.

The bill is now in her Environmental Resources Committee for review, and it doesn't contain any authorization to charge residents for using water from their wells, she said.

Nor is there any authorization to allow the state Department of Environmental Protection to require people to turn off or cut back on the use of well water during dry or drought periods, she said.

Despite rumors to the contrary, reports that the state will require meters on wells aren't true, nor is there any authorization in the bill to allow the DEP to trespass on private property to inspect wells, White said.

Wells and those under construction would be exempt from any new regulations, Wilt said.

The House version of the bill creates a well enforcement officer program, but the Senate version is likely to remove enforcement officers because of budgetary concerns, he said.

White agreed those positions will likely be cut.

No standards

More than 2 million Pennsylvania homes rely on private wells for clean drinking water, and more than 20,000 new wells are drilled each year, Wilt said.

Pennsylvania is one of four states without some minimum standards for construction of residential wells, and some controls are required to ensure that certified drillers construct those wells properly, he said.

At this point, anyone can drill a well regardless of his or her qualifications, Wilt said.

Improper construction, which is a growing problem in the industry, can lead to contamination of groundwater and possibly the local aquifer, Wilt said.




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