The water situation in the Mountaintop region is improving — the boil water notice, which had been in place for more than two weeks, was lifted Wednesday and, as of Friday morning, the German settlement and Snow Shoe water storage tanks were at between 85 and 90 percent of capacity.
Two weeks ago, the water levels in the tanks were low, so low that the authority was worried people might wake up one day and be out of water.
People have been great, and they’re conserving, said Peary Schmoke, vice chairman of the Mountaintop Regional Water Authority.
The water authority serves about 1,300 homes and businesses in Burnside Township, Snow Shoe Township and Snow Shoe borough.
Mountaintop’s not out of the woods yet, Schmoke said, adding that water conservation is still necessary.
It’s going to be an ongoing situation until the authority gets another water source, he said.
Part of the problem is that about 50 percent of the authority’s water is lost through leaks or it’s unaccounted for.
But, beyond that, there’s less water in the wells than there used to be.
The water authority draws from two wells, and there’s also a spring that serves Pine Glen.
Back in 2005, Snow Shoe Borough Authority (now part of the regional water authority) notified the state Department of Environmental Protection of a loss of water that caused the pump to fail in one of its two wells, according to information provided by DEP.
The authority noticed problems “immediately,” said Jim Yost, Mountaintop Regional Water Authority chairman.
“All of a sudden, we had cavitation, which is sucking air because there’s not enough water over the pump,” he said.
The Snow Shoe authority requested that DEP investigate the situation, and as a result of that investigation DEP determined that the water supply was diminished as a consequence of drilling activities at a nearby conventional gas well operated by Great Lakes Energy Partners LLC, according to DEP.
Range Resources-Appalachia LLC (formerly Great Lakes) denied and disputed DEP’s determination that the company had caused any diminution of the water authority’s supply, according to court documents.
In 2008, DEP and Range Resources-Appalachia LLC entered into a Consent Order and Agreement that included certain terms and conditions, including the reconstruction of the Snow Shoe well, to “protect the SSBA water supply,” DEP said.
According to court documents, the gas well was 1,500 feet horizontally from the Snow Shoe well and was drilled completely through the same aquifer that the water well penetrates.
In 1997, when the Snow Shoe well was drilled, the static water level measured 1.76 feet below ground surface, according to court documents. In 2006, the water level measured 32.8 feet below ground surface — the difference in static water level represents a loss in available draw down in the well.
The municipal well, which had been the water authority’s primary water source, was originally permitted to yield 300 gallons per minute, according to DEP, and because the water authority chose to accept the recommendations of the gas well drilling company’s consultant to reconstruct the well, that source was required to be retested for quantity and quality at a reduced rate of 200 gallons per minute.
“SSBA and Range Resources also negotiated a separate agreement, including a monetary payment, that resolved legal issues between those parties that arose from the drilling of the well,” DEP said.
The authority used to be able to get all the water it needed out of that one well, and the other was just used as a backup, Yost said. It also used to be able to turn the pumps off at night.
Now, Yost said the authority uses all it can get out of both.
The spring in Pine Glen was also affected by another gas well, Schmoke said. The amount of water flowing out of it dropped by 30-40 percent.