DEP Final Report on Ten Mile Creek Indicates No Dangers of Radioactivity

Washington PA Observer-Reporter
2 December 2016
By Bob Niedbala

Follow-up testing conducted during the past year by the state Department of Environmental Protection has confirmed previous studies indicating radiological levels within safe limits in Ten Mile Creek.

“The results from testing conducted throughout 2016 were similar to those taken in 2015, at which time DEP concluded there was no risk of radioactivity,” said John Stefanko, DEP executive deputy secretary for programs. “The samples for this study were put through rigorous testing and reached the same conclusions.”

DEP conducted extensive testing of the creek and of the wastewater discharge of the Clyde Mine in June 2015 to determine whether radioactive levels were above safe limits. This came after initial samples taken by the agency in April 2014 had showed radiological levels above normal background levels.

The December 2015 report indicated radiological levels within the normal range, and DEP concluded that the initial, rudimentary tests completed in April 2014 had used a methodology not accurate enough to provide definitive conclusions.

An independent organization, West Virginia Water Research Institute, also had tested samples in 2015 and found radioactive levels well below federal regulations for safe drinking water.

Follow-up testing conducted this year by DEP involved sampling water at the Clyde treatment plant and at one location in Ten Mile Creek upstream from the plant and one location downstream from the plant. Sludge at the plant generated as part of the treatment process also was sampled. The sampling was conducted on Jan. 20, April 19 and June 21.

All water samples were below the Environmental Protection Agency’s drinking water limit of 5 picocuries per liter for radium-226 and radium-228, the report said. “Any radiation that was detected was consistent with background levels for southwest Pennsylvania,” it added.

DEP’s Bureau of Laboratories personnel conducted the radiological analyses using several analytical methods. Water samples were analyzed using radiochemistry extraction methods consistent with EPA standards.

In addition, water samples were analyzed using EPA-approved methods for the same nonradiological parameters performed in June 2015. Raw and treated mine discharge water was tested for typical water quality parameters associated with coal mine drainage, including chloride, bromide and dissolved solids.

DEP’s Bureau of Mining Programs personnel concluded the 2016 results for the nonradiological parameters were comparable to those from June 2015 and within a normal range of fluctuation that would be expected when sampling occurs at various times throughout the year, DEP said.

Based on the results, the reports said, DEP will discontinue “nonroutine” sampling at the Clyde Mine plant and in Ten Mile Creek. However, routine monitoring and inspections will continue, the agency said.