Officials in two Pennsylvania counties with significant oil and gas drilling that targets the Marcellus Shale say they support plans by the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) to conduct baseline testing at private water wells in their counties next year.

Bradford County Commissioner Doug McLinko and Lycoming Chairman Jeff Wheeland told NGI’s Shale Daily in separate interviews Monday that they support the USGS’ plans to work in tandem with Guthrie Health, Geisinger Health System and Susquehanna Health to test 70 wells in each county that volunteer to do so.

McLinko and Wheeland each said their counties plan to write to the state Department of Community and Economic Development to voice support for a $250,000 grant that would help fund the testing. According to reports, the USGS plans to contribute another $100,000 for the tests.

“It’s not just because of the drilling,” Wheeland said. “We’re doing it because it’s something that’s never been done here. We’ll be testing wells not only where there is Marcellus Shale, but also in places where there is not Marcellus Shale. We’ve never really had baseline testing of well water in the county.

“We thought it was a great opportunity to get a sample of the different types of well water that we have throughout the county. Of course, as a result of the Marcellus there has been a lot of encouragement for people to get baseline testing on their wells.”

McLinko concurred. “It’s really got nothing to do with Marcellus development. It’s more about getting a baseline per county through the USGS.

“To be honest, I worry about it sending the wrong message to the people that just can’t wait to have a problem. That’s exactly what I thought was going to happen — that there was going to be a frenzy on why we’re doing it. There have been no complaints, no violations. They just came to us and asked if we wanted to do it, and we certainly support doing that.”

In February, Geisinger was awarded a $1 million grant from the Degenstein Foundation to help complete a study on the health impacts from Marcellus Shale gas drilling (see Shale Daily, Feb. 22). Susquehanna Health also joined Geisinger and Guthrie Health in November 2012 on a separate study on Marcellus drilling (see Shale Daily, Aug. 21, 2012).