The following article is being reprinted from the Second Quarter, 1997, issue of the "Rural Water" magazine with permission from the National Rural Water Association.
"Protecting your water resources is a very important and serious matter, but it can be accomplished with cooperation, education, and a little fun too. "
That's the message from junior and senior high school students of Mars, Pennsylvania, who spearheaded efforts to bring wellhead protection to their community. They formed four groups to accomplish their goal: a wellhead protection committee, a public relations committee, a middle school education committee, and an elementary school education committee. Two of the students are serving on the Mars Borough Municipal Wellhead Protection Committee.
Led by students, this project involved completing a wellhead protection plan for the Mars School District's four schools that are served by five wells. Technical guidance for the project was provided by the Pennsylvania Rural Water Association, Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (PADEP) and several teachers. They also received the services of a hydrogeologist, donated by Moody and Associates of Meadville, PA, to work with the students on completing their delineations for the wells. And, Acer Engineering & Consultants of [Lancaster], volunteered to train the students in potential contaminant source inventories.
The students met each Tuesday morning at 6:30 a.m., before classes, to learn more about protecting ground water and to plan out their project. They made field trips on Saturdays, and using a global position system provided by PADEP, they completed their well site survey and potential contamination source inventory.
Included in the outreach materials developed by the students was an educational brochure on the ground water program, designed to inform local residents about the program. A local company, Callery Chemical, a division of Mine Safety Appliance, reproduced 6,500 copies of the brochure for the students. Other public information efforts, written and produced by the students, included an inhouse video to show the student body the benefits of the program.
The elementary education committee worked with 3rd graders, teaching them to build ground water flow models out of two liter bottles. They also taught lessons in a three part series that included: the hydrologic cycle, ground water flow and contamination, and porosity and permeability of soils. The committee members served as role models for the younger students, and created a sense of excitement about these new lessons.
This year's project concluded with Water Week activities for the students and a formal presentation of the plan to the school board and local government officials.
This project would not have been possible without the commitment of many people. The students gave up valuable personal and activity time to participate in this project and the school district was very supportive of their effort. EPA Region III has given the school district a small grant for equipment and an educational program, and the Hach Company has joined in a cooperative effort to help insure that the ground water education program continues at the schools.
This project is a good example of the proactive, cooperative approach needed to protect our drinking water resources. The children of Mars have taken it upon themselves to protect their water now and for future generations. And with a little help from the Pennsylvania Rural Water Association, government, and visionary companies, they are making it work.