Grant money funding environmental programs, education

At Monday’s meeting of the Elk County Gas Task Force, Conservation District Manager Steve Putt said that Ridgway has been awarded a small educational grant to place awareness signs near public drinking water systems. He noted the district's water monitoring program continues and said several of the devices that monitor water quality were temporarily moved from smaller streams to accommodate fishermen during the season. Additionally, there are now three satellite telemetry systems in the area to monitor water quality, two in Horton Twp. on the Brockway water systems and one in Fox Twp. The conservation district was also awarded a small educational grant through the Pennsylvania Association of Conservation Districts to complete what Putt termed the “Clarion River Storm Water Awareness Project," They are placing small metal disks with pictures of fish that say, “No dumping—drainage to river.”“We’re going to place those little disks at the storm water inlets along the Clarion River Corridor just to kind of bring an awareness so, hey don’t dump anything here, this is eventually going to end up in our streams.”Putt said the $2,000 grant will allow for the purchase of about 250 disks for this purpose. The price will include shipping and adhesive. The annual Envirothon was recently held for high school students. There were 10 teams, with five students per team. A team from Johnsonburg won and will go on to the state competition held at Pitt-Johnstown. Putt wished the students luck in the next level of competition. Elk County Planning Department Community and Economic Development Coordinator Jodi Foster said the process for getting source water protection plans approved by DEP is coming to an end. Water protection plans are being individualized for the county’s various watersheds. Plans must be completed by the end of June because that is when the grant cycle ends. Foster said that Johnsonburg Municipal Authority is also interested in doing a plan, but must wait for the next grant cycle to start. Foster also had applied for and received a $3,000 grant from DEP to host a rain barrel workshop. After conversing with Putt and Elk County Watershed Specialist Kim Bonfardine, the trio decided to look into incorporating the storm water on the Clarion program and well water education with the rain barrel project. Foster noted that a large number of Elk County residents with private wells have never had their water tested, and that doing so would help them learn about amounts of various minerals and other levels of substances contained in their well water. “I think a benefit of having the gas industry in our area has been to create awareness of the private landowners and the private well owners of what can actually be in their drinking water before the gas industry came anywhere near them," Foster said. Foster said Bonfardine had attended training for well water education and they want to incorporate that training into their workshop. No date has been set for when the workshop incorporating the different elements will take place. Pick up a copy of the Saturday, May 19, 2012 edition of The Ridgway Record for more.