WVU Research Group Confirms Initial Radiation Testing at Clyde
Washington PA Observer-Reporter
1 September 2015
By Bob Niedbala, Staff Writer
Additional testing by a West Virginia University research group
confirmed its initial finding that radiation levels in the Clyde
Mine discharge on Ten Mile Creek are well below those set by
federal drinking water regulations.
”We looked hard and just could not find any evidence of harmful
radiation levels,” said Dr. Paul Ziemkiewicz, director of the West
Virginia Water Research Institute.
The issue of radioactivity in the Clyde Mine discharge and in Ten
Mile Creek was first raised several months ago by the Greene
County Chapter of the Izaak Walton League.
The league based its concerns on results it obtained from the
state Department of Environmental Protection on preliminary
testing DEP conducted in April 2014. Those tests revealed
extremely high radium levels of between 102 and 301 picocuries per
liter, well above the federal drinking water standard of 5 pCi/L.
On June 25, the institute sampled water at the same three sites
DEP sampled in 2014: the discharge at the Clyde Mine and those at
two coal refuse sites, one farther upstream at the Emerald Mine
and another at the Cumberland Mine on Whiteley Creek.
The institute found acceptable levels of radium for drinking water
at all three sites. To make sure the initial results were valid,
the institute retested the Clyde Mine discharge, sampling mine
discharge water six times over a two-week period on the last week
of July and the first week of August, Ziemkiewicz said.
The new results showed the highest minimum detectable
concentration of alpha radiation was 2.95 pCi/L, with reported
values averaging 0.74 pCi/L.
The institute retested the Clyde Mine discharge because it was the
only site where the level for one parameter, gross alpha, in the
initial testing even approached that established for drinking
water, Ziemkiewicz said.
Because the initial sample was high in total dissolved solids, the
institute tested the new samples using two methods, one
recommended by the Environmental Protection Agency for water with
high total dissolved solids, he said.
The institute also raised several issues that could possibly
explain the discrepancies between its results and DEP’s April 2014
Ziemkiewicz cited an inconsistency in DEP’s data and noted it was
unclear what analytical method DEP used to determine radium
concentrations. DEP also measured radium by gamma spectroscopy
which, he said, is not very precise when used for water samples.
The institute used more precise radiochemistry methods, he said.
Ken Dufalla, president of the Greene County chapter of the Izaak
Walton League, said he was glad to learn of the institute’s new
testing results but wanted to wait until all the testing is
“Don’t jump the gun,” Dufalla said. “Let’s hope WWRI is
correct, but we’re going to wait until all data is in and we can
analyze it so we know for sure.”
DEP conducted a more elaborate round of testing in mid-June, with
the results expected to be made public later this month. Duke
University and another university group also conducted sampling,
”We’re going to wait until we have all the facts,” he said.
The league also contends high water flow in the creek in June
would dilute the water and affect the detection of radiation.
However, experts said rainfall at that time would not likely
affect the Clyde Mine discharge.
DEP spokesman John Poister said the institute shared its results
with the department, but the department will not comment until its
own testing is completed. DEP expects its results to be ready
sometime after Labor Day, he said.