TOWANDA - At its meeting this week, the Towanda Municipal Authority heard a report from a hydrogeologist on the quality and quantity of water at various sites where new municipal water wells could be developed for communities in the central part of Bradford County.

The authority has been looking "in earnest" since 2000 to locate sites for additional municipal water wells to supply water for the future needs of the authority's growing municipal water system and to serve as a backup source, in case one of the authority's existing water sources failed, authority Manager Tom Fairchild Jr. said at the meeting.

"We are finally, hopefully starting to zero in on the ultimate solution" for where to locate the wells, Fairchild said. "We have identified some potential sites."

One option being looked at involves drilling two municipal water wells in Eastside Riverfront Park in Wysox Township, which would also require the construction of a filtration plant costing millions of dollars to treat the water, according to Casselberry and Stiffler, McGraw & Associates, an engineering firm that has been hired by the authority to work on the development of the wells. The park is an advantageous location because the wells at the site could deliver water to an existing water line in the park that will supply all of Wysox Township's new $9.9 million water system, Casselberry said.

Another option under consideration involves constructing wells on private property in Wysox and North Towanda townships, and those wells would have their own additional costs, including acquisition of property and the expense of bringing water and electric lines to the sites, he said.

At the meeting, Casselberry presented the results of tests of water quality and quantity that have been conducted using test wells drilled at various sites in Wysox, Towanda and North Towanda townships.

Wysox Twp. park

Drilling wells in Eastside Riverfront Park "seems to make the most sense (of any possible location) on the Wysox side of the river," Casselberry said.

Based on the results of tests conducted on test wells dug in late November in Eastside Riverfront Park, municipal wells drilled in the park will produce "a very clean source of water," Casselberry said.

However, government regulations will require that the water drawn by wells in the park be treated by a filtration plant, due to the proximity of the Susquehanna River and to the fact that the area is subject to flooding, Casselberry said.

The park's test wells tapped an aquifer beneath the river that contains water that flows down the river valley, he said. Sand and gravel filters the water that migrates from the river into the aquifer below it and "really improves the water quality" in the aquifer, Casselberry said.

One advantage of the site is that the aquifer is saturated with water, 365 days per year, he said.

Two wells drilled in Eastside Riverfront Park would together produce 680 gallons per minute, or 1 million gallons of water daily, enough to supply all the needs of the authority's customers, in case those wells needed to be used as a backup water source, he said.

The filtration plant would be located on higher ground on land owned by Towanda Borough on the east side the river, he said.

In compliance with government regulations, water drawn by a test well is tested for "every regular drinking water contaminant," including micro-organisms, Casselberry said.

The testing looks for approximately 180 inorganic compounds, "a couple hundred synthetic and volatile organic compounds," and radioactive materials, among other things, he said.

Based on the test results themselves, the water drawn from municipal wells in Eastside Riverfront Park would not need to be put through a treatment plant, and would only require normal chlorine disinfection, he said.

The only treatment of the water from the authority's existing water sources - Eilenberger Spring in Laddsburg and two municipal wells in North Towanda Township - is chlorine disinfection, said Fred Johnson, operating superintendent for the Towanda Municipal Authority's water and sewer system.

"I would not have predicted that the water (drawn from the test wells in Eastside Riverfront Park) would be that clean," Casselberry said.

"It is amazing," Johnson agreed.

The filtration plant that would need to be built is similar to one used in Ulster Township, which also treats water from a well located along the Susquehanna River, Casselberry said.

The filtration plant would be different from a conventional water treatment plant that treats surface water, he said. "It (the kind of treatment plant needed for Eastside Riverfront Park wells) does not require a whole lot of attention. Once it's set, it tends to regulate itself," Casselberry said.

The tops of the wells in the park would be below ground level, so people who did not know about the wells will not realize that they are there, he said.

Private property

The authority has also drilled five test wells on private property - two in North Towanda Township and three in Wysox Township - which might be locations where municipal wells could be developed, according to Fairchild and Casselberry.

However, Fairchild declined to give specific locations of the five test wells on private property, saying that the authority would still need to negotiate for the purchase of property from the land owners, in case a municipal well were to be developed at one of those sites.

The authority has drilled more than 50 test holes and test wells in its search for additional wells, but the quality of the water at many of the sites is a problem, Casselberry said.

For example, water drawn by a series of test wells in Towanda Township contained a large amount of manganese, Fairchild said. A group of test wells drilled in Wysox Township, located between Leisure Drive and the Susquehanna River, also drew water containing manganese, Casselberry said.

The presence of manganese is not a health problem, but it does stain laundry, Casselberry said.

Casselberry explained that if people put Clorox in their laundry, the manganese in the water would create black stains on their clothing.

To remove the manganese, the authority would need to construct a filter plant, he said.

"We hope to avoid a manganese filter plant," he said.

Manganese "seems to be all through the Susquehanna River valley,"  Fairchild added.

However, the water drawn by the wells in Eastside Riverfront Park does not contain manganese, Casselberry said.

One of the test wells drilled on private property between Leisure Drive and the river - specifically, the one closest to U.S. Route 6 - would not require a treatment plant and would produce 300 gallons per minute, Casselberry said. The water drawn from test wells on private property in North Towanda Township would also not need to be put through a treatment plant, he said.

The site of the test wells on private property in North Towanda Township would support one municipal well, which would draw approximately 300 gallons per minute, he said. 

One option that the authority could pursue would be to drill two wells on private property - one in North Towanda Township and the other between Leisure Drive and the river, he said after the meeting.

The authority has also investigated developing an additional well on the authority-owned property in North Towanda Township where its two existing municipal water wells are located, Casselberry said. However, Casselberry said after the meeting that a well on the TMA property in North Towanda Township would produce only a limited amount of additional water.

Cost

Stiffler, McGraw & Associates will now develop cost estimates for the various options for developing additional water wells, Casselberry said.

Those estimates will take into account the cost of acquiring private property, constructing water lines, bringing electric service to the potential well sites, and the expense of any water treatment, Casselberry said.

A more specific cost estimate will be developed for the filtration plant, according to the engineering firm.

Using cost estimates and other data, the authority will decide whether to construct municipal water wells at any of the identified sites, Casselberry said.

The authority has been setting aside revenue from the sale of bulk water to gas drilling companies to help pay the cost of developing new water sources, Fairchild said.

One of the reasons why new water sources are needed is that the authority is in a "very vulnerable" position of having its existing water sources located at either end of its water system - Eilenberger Spring is 16 miles from Towanda and the North Towanda wells are two miles north of Towanda - with nothing in between, Fairchild said.

In addition to supplying water for Wysox Township's new municipal water system, It looks like the authority will also be supplying water for the planned Moxie Energy gas-fired power plant in Asylum Township, Fairchild said.

In the future, the Towanda Municipal Authority might provide water service to other additional homes and businesses in Asylum Township, and to other areas, such as Powell, Rome Borough, and along Route 220 heading toward Ulster, according to Fairchild and Johnson.

Moxie's plant would use between 10,000 to 60,000 gallons of water per day, Fairchild said.

On average, the authority supplies a total of 650,000 to 850,000 gallons of water per day for its customers, Johnson said.

James Loewenstein can be reached at (570) 265-1633; or jloewenstein@thedailyreview.com.