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October 18, 2012

OCCA to conduct baseline water tests

COOPERSTOWN — The Otsego County Conservation Association is coordinating an ambitious effort to determine the quality of well water throughout Otsego County.

“Good clean water is one of the our greatest assets in this part of the country, and we know so little about it that we felt that we needed to start learning more,” said Vicky M. Lentz, the president of the OCCA Board of Directors.

In the event that natural gas drilling comes to the region, the data culled from the research will provide baseline information against which comparisons can be made in the event gas drilling or other new industrial activity comes into the county.

Lentz said the information that will be produced by the research could be used for numerous other purposes.

“Gas drilling was the wakeup call,” she said. “We know we have something good (with the abundant supply of local water) here. We just don’t know how good it is.”

She said she expects testing will start once OCCA achieves its goal of raising $80,000 to support the research. The current drive, she said, has now reached nearly three-fourths of that targeted sum.

“We’re getting a tremendous response from the people we have talked to,” she said.

Raising $80,000 will give the organization enough money to fund the testing of 83 wells. “That equates to about one in every 17 square miles of the county,” she said. “We’d like to do more. The more money we can get, the more wells we can test, the more knowledge we can get. It just grows.”

The wells that will be selected for the research will be chosen by hydrologists with the Catskill Headwaters Research Institute, a branch of the State University College at Oneonta. The samples will be collected by certified technicians, she said.

“As far as we know, we’re probably the first organization in the country to do broad scale water testing,” said Lentz.

OCCA is preparing a request for proposals for a certified lab to conduct the sample collection and analysis, according to Darla Youngs, the organization’s executive director.

OCCA is also inviting Otsego County property owners and municipalities who have already had their water tested by Community Science Institute and other labs to send the results of those tests to OCCA so they may be included in the county’s baseline data, Youngs said.

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