Kim Bonfardine of the county's Conservation District reported Tuesday morning that county officials have acquired over $200,000 worth of grant money for water testing.
"The project's purpose is to set up and get data on the industries that are moving into the area," Bonfardine said. "We won't just be monitoring for Marcellus Shale but also other things as well. We're very lucky to get a lot of partners for their support.
"I met with a lady from the Colcom Foundation and she told us we had the thickest application because of all the letters of support, a total of 25 of them and partnership letters. That says a lot about our project."
The purpose of this project is the protection of the local water system and Bonfardine's first priority is the drinking water system.
"As everyone knows, there's been drilling going on in the Big Mill Creek watershed, which is Ridgway's water supply and down in Brockway, there is drilling near their water supply as well," Bonfardine said. "I think it's very important that we get systems in there to monitor and also have an alarm system just in case there is a pollution event."
Officials applied for two grants, one through the Stackpole-Hall Foundation and one through the Colcom Foundation, and both were approved.
"The Stackpole-Hall grant was a matching grant, which enables us to show the people of Pittsburgh that we have matching support and that really means a lot when you're filing for a grant," Bonfardine said. "We received $65,000 from the Stackpole-Hall Foundation and $146,000 from the Colcom Foundation out of Pittsburgh.
"The reason that they liked our project, we found out through conversations that they liked the range of it, as we're covering the entire county-- it's a large project covering a large area."
The total project cost is reportedly $329,330.
"This is including service hours, student interns coming along to help with the monitoring system, and we also have a big volunteer base as well to go out into the field on their own time to help us collect data," Bonfardine said. "We're not only collecting in areas where there is drilling going on, but also in areas where there is nothing going on so we can have a baseline of control data so we can have professional standards for collecting water safety data.
"We worked with the sourcewater protection plan as well for the water authorities and this will serve both of us. It makes a circle around a water supply basically with a radius of coverage if there's a water pollution incident, for example 5 miles, 10 miles, whichever-- that will give water authority officials time to respond to a pollution event if it would happen, any type of pollution event at all. We're not just targeting Marcellus Shale, we're protecting our water system against any type of pollution event."