On March 3rd a group of eight intrepid activists conducted the Allegheny National Forest, Forest Watch Springs Tour, a survey of natural springs in the forest area where communities, campers and travelers have traditionally found this most precious of natural resources. The objective was locate ten of the total of seventy springs in the forest, and to test the water quality before shale gas drilling occurs in the area.
The group mapped eight springs with digital photos and GPS positioning data, and measured Total Dissolved Solids (TDS) with a handheld digital meter. Readings ranging from 11 to 46 parts per million (ppm) indicated “drinking water of exceptional quality” according to the calibrated scale, with most readings close to 20 ppm. “Although this meter does not measure some things that the fancy tests look for, this meter shows us that there is presently nothing in the water to threaten human health, we would be testing for pollutants that aren’t there according to this meter,” explained John Stoneman. “This represents an excellent standard of water quality, which is certain to be compromised or threatened as fracking moves in.”
With the establishment of these highly favorable initial TDS readings, the hikers enjoyed deep drafts of the spring water, followed by forays into nearby woods to follow up on observations. Many of the springs had old stone works, iron pipes, and other elements that clearly showed evidence of more than a century of use. The moss around all the springs was rich and luxurious, so much green in a landscape brown with winter. Populations of watercress were found in more than one site, its strong flavor balanced with the abundant teaberries found nearby. Winter food?
One of the eight located springs was near recently observed habitat of the Synchronous Firefly, Photinus Carolinus. The a USFS Allegheny Resource Advisory Committee (RAC) has funded a study to document this new species. ADP is recruiting volunteers to participate in this summer’s study.
There are a total of seventy recorded springs to be visited, verified and tested quarterly/seasonally. The map and inventory will be part of the baseline data as further testing is done by a third-party contractor and PA-DEP Certified Laboratory.
Volunteers are sought to help with all aspects of this Potable Water Survey Project, from volunteering to visit springs with a legal witness and a GPS, to efforts to pressure the federal Forest Service and gas companies to fund these necessary studies. Interested folks can contact Cathy Pedler, ADP Forest Watch Coordinator and Erie Group Sierra Club Public Lands Action Team chair, for more information email email@example.com or phone 814-454-7523.
Further development of the Potable Water Survey Project will take place at the upcoming Heartwood Forest Council, held this May Memorial Day Weekend in the Allegheny National Forest.