Legal Baseline Water Well Testing

Table of Contents

Testing Tiers
Tester Contact Information
EAC's Recommendation
Additional Resources
Additional Water Testers


Natural gas exploration using horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”) is being conducted in close proximity to the Borough of Harveys Lake and additional land has been leased for potential drilling exploration within the borough itself. If you are a lake resident who draws your water from a private well, you may want to consider having a legal baseline well water test conducted at this time in order to protect both the safety of your water supply and your legal rights.

Legal baseline well water testing requires an expert to come to your home and to follow a strict protocol to inspect your well water supply system and to collect a valid sample of its water. The expert then must maintain legal chain of custody over your water sample and deliver it for appropriate testing to a state-certified testing laboratory. Legal baseline testing is much more rigorous, and expensive, than the informational, homeowner-sampled testing that Harveys Lake EAC has offered biannually in the past.

A short, educational document on the topic of fracking and its impact on our water resources, entitled “Gas Well Drilling and Your Private Water Supply,” is published online *here* by the Penn State Cooperative Extension. This valuable primer, written for a lay audience, will help you and your family to develop a strategy to protect your legal rights and the health and safety of your particular water well.

For example, the Penn State document explains that conducting a legal baseline test is only the first step in protecting your water well. For as long as fracking activity continues in our region and for an unknown period of time afterwards, you will need to remain vigilant about the safety of your water supply. You should conduct follow-up testing on at least an annual basis. However, this screening need not be of the legal baseline variety. Since you can collect your own water sample for follow-up tests, the cost of testing will be greatly reduced.

For residents’ convenience, the Harveys Lake EAC will now conduct its affordable, homeowner-sampled well water testing program on an annual basis, rather than biannually as in the past. (Note that these homeowner-sampled tests do not constitute legal baseline testing.) If you suspect a problem with your water in between those testing opportunities, geologist Brian Oram, who conducts the EAC informational homeowner program testing through Wilkes University, will offer lake residents the reduced, $75 price for the traditional testing package at any time throughout the year.

Testing Tiers

As described in the Penn State Cooperative Extension document beginning on page five, under the section entitled “Homeowner Strategies to Protect Water Supplies,” water sampling professionals generally offer legal baseline testing options in three recommended “tiers,” or testing packages. Typical Penn State Tier packages measure the following parameters (prices and providers below):

Tier I: Methane, Barium, Chloride, Total Dissolved Solids, and pH

Tier II: All Tier I parameters plus Lead, Arsenic, Iron, Manganese, Strontium, Sodium, Hardness (calcium & magnesium), Sulfate, Nitrate, Oil & Grease, Detergents / Surfactants, Total Organic Carbon, Total Coliform Bacteria, Turbidity, and Alkalinity

Tier III: All Tier I & II parameters plus VOCs /BTEX, Radium, Radon, and Gross Alpha

While the Penn State Tiers were developed for application in watersheds throughout Pennsylvania, Brian Oram, drawing on his background as a hydrogeologist, a professional geologist and a licensed well driller with long-term experience working with the Harveys Lake community and its aquifer, has developed three tiers that he feels more particularly suit the geology and water quality of the Harveys Lake area. Brian’s three testing tiers (offered not through Wilkes University but by his private firm, B.F. Environmental Consultants Inc.) will be tested locally, by the state-accredited Kirby Memorial Health Center labs, and will measure the following parameters (prices below):

Brian’s Tier I

Brian recommends this certified package as a screening for post-gas development or for testing water wells that are not along a major roadway or that are in areas that have not been leased (not recommended for an initial assessment in the Harvey's Lake Area):

Measured Parameters

Total Coliform with E. Coli confirmation, Chloride, Sodium, Bromide, Barium, pH, Total Dissolved Solids, MBAS, Iron, Manganese, and Methane/Ethane

Brian’s Tier II

This is the minimum package Brian Oram recommends for an initial assessment in the Harveys Lake area:

Measured Parameters

Includes all parameters of his Tier I, plus Total Hardness, Magnesium, Strontium, Conductivity, Calcium, Zinc, Alkalinity, Arsenic, Nitrate, Total Suspended Solids, Sulfate, Oil & Grease, 21-VOCs/MTBE, and Selenium

Brian’s Tier III

This comprehensive package is recommended for water wells beyond 1000 feet of a gas well site and not along a horizontal fracking leg:

Measured Parameters

Includes all parameters of his Tiers II and III, plus Potassium, Sulfide, Ammonia, Acidity, Nickel, Gross Alpha/Beta, Lead, and Uranium

 *Brian’s testing prices valid for Harveys Lake area residents only. Collections must be scheduled for Monday through Wednesday, the sampling point must not require modification and the top of the well must be accessible. The field sampling includes documenting water level in the well, documenting the GPS position for the well, and completion of chain-of-custody documents. The homeowner will need to provide a check payable to Kirby Health Center for the cost of the analysis at the time of collection.

Well Testing Tiers and Pricing  

Penn State Cooperative Extension Tiers (see detailed description above)

Brian Oram/Kirby Health Labs
Penn State Tier I Package: $275
Penn State Tier II Package: $465
Penn State Tier III Package: $975

Independent Water Testing (Andy Goldberg)
Penn State Tier I Package: $265
Penn State Tier II Package: $615
Penn State Tier III Package: $935

Brian Oram Tiers (see detailed description above)

Brian’s Tier I: $400
Brian’s Tier II: $640
Brian’s Tier III: $915

Tester contact information:

Brian Oram (B.F. Environmental)

Andy Goldberg (Independent Water Testing)
888-MY H20 TEST (888-694-2683)

Kirby Memorial Health Center

EAC’s Recommendation

We on the Harveys Lake EAC believe that Brian Oram’s outstanding credentials and long-term experience in water and soil sciences generally, coupled with his specific experience of conducting chain-of-custody and expert witness testimony and his community service record here at Harveys Lake over the past decade, make him a clear top choice to perform baseline testing for Harveys Lake residents. We also believe that Brian’s choice to have all of his testing in this program performed by our local, state-accredited testing labs at Kirby Health Center is the way to go.

Brian Oram does not and has not performed professional consulting services or water testing for any oil/gas exploration company. He did participate in an educational outreach program through Wilkes University to help citizens understand the results of a pre-drilling baseline water testing conducted in Luzerne County by a natural gas company. This program was part of the Community Education Program for the Homeowner Outreach Program at Wilkes University.

We maintain every confidence in Brian’s professional integrity, and we recommend him for this project without reservation.

As an alternative to Brian Oram, residents may wish to use the services of Andy Goldberg or one of the other professionals listed below under “Additional Water Testers.”

Additional Resources:

Penn State Cooperative Extension: “Gas Well Drilling and Your Private Water Supply”

Brian Oram’s homepage:

Andy Goldberg’s homepage:

Free Water Quality Manual from Wilkes University:

Additional Water Testers

Other Local Testing Laboratories Providing Chain-of-Custody Services

Aqua - Tech Laboratory
1 Wilderness Drive.
Mountaintop. PA 18707. 570-868-0915

Hawk Mtn Laboratories

Northeastern Environmental Laboratories (certified Laboratory)

Quantum Laboratories

Seewald Laboratories Inc (certified Laboratory)


Other Professionals Conducting Third Party Sampling

George Turner, PG