Antrim area wells contaminated

January 19, 2001

Antrim area wells contaminated

By RICHARD F. BELISLE / Staff Writer, Waynesboro

GREENCASTLE, Pa. - Nitrates and bacteria are found in much of the groundwater under Antrim Township, water that moves freely and quickly through the porous limestone terrain common to the area, said the man who is responsible for checking the quality of the township's underground drinking water.

Jon Piper, the sewage enforcement officer for Antrim and several surrounding townships, said the first line of defense in protecting the area's drinking water is the proper installation and operation of private septic systems.

Piper, 31, a private contractor, is paid by the Antrim Township Supervisors to check home-septic systems. He also contracts with the nearby southern Franklin County townships of Peters, Warren, St. Thomas and Montgomery, among others. He inspects the soils before installation to ensure that the septic systems being installed will drain properly. He also checks on the installation.

New state regulations aimed at protecting underground drinking water sources are forcing townships to order property owners to clean septic tanks regularly.


Wells in the Antrim area have been contaminated for decades, Piper said. Nitrates are leached into the water from fertilizers spread on farms. Bacteria, including coliform - which comes from human and animal waste - drains into the ground water from farms and from aging or improperly working septic systems.

The problems are more prevalent east of U.S. 11 which bisects Antrim Township. Land there is porous with limestone. The land west of the highway has more shale, which slows the movement of groundwater, Piper said.

A recent study by a conservation organization confirmed that most private drinking water wells in nearby Berkeley County, W.Va., are contaminated as well from the same sources.

While drinking water from wells is easily purified with chlorination nitrates, it can pose problems for pregnant women, children and the elderly. Banks now require that wells and septic tanks be inspected before mortgages are approved, Piper said.

More than 40 percent of Antrim Township is served by a growing network of public sewers, Piper said. It is even now beginning to reach to what Piper calls "dot-on-the-map communities," small hamlets like Kauffman Station north of Greencastle where dozens of homes served by private, failing septic systems, are crowded together.

New township ordinances require regular inspections of septic systems. "All will be inspected eventually," Piper said.

Another ordinance mandates that septic tanks on properties surrounding new housing developments, no matter the size, be inspected to see how well the soils drain the existing systems. The results will determine the size of the building lots in the new development.

Current township regulations require two-acre lots where there is no public water or sewers.

"Wells are becoming more of an issue," Piper said. "Fifty years ago, wells were contaminated, but there wasn't as much testing done then and there weren't as many people. The more people you have the more problems you have. That's growth," he said.

"Public sewers are the answer, but much of Pennsylvania is too rural to have them everywhere," Piper said. "I'll always have a job."

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