High TDS Levels Found in Stream
Washington PA Observer Reporter
14 July 2012
High levels of total dissolved solids reported in the lower
portion of Dunkard Creek this week are attributed to low water
flow and uncontrolled discharges from abandoned mines, the state
Department of Environmental Protection said Friday.
TDS levels in the lower Dunkard, measured near Bobtown, gradually
increased during the week.
Conductivity readings exceeded 5,000 microsiemens per centimeter,
which equals 3,500 parts per million of total dissolved solids,
DEP spokesman John Poister said.
“That’s a high reading,” said Poister.
High levels of TDS were determined to have created conditions for
a bloom of golden algae that led to a massive fish kill in the
upper and middle portions of the creek three years ago.
Rainfall in the watershed is down about 3 inches for the year.
“We were at August levels in the creek at the end of June. There’s
a serious flow problem, and unless we get a lot of rain, the
situation is only going to get worse,” Poister said.
The lower portion of the creek is plagued by discharges from
abandoned mines, Poister said: “There are a lot of culprits down
there. It’s not just one discharge.”
Because of the low flow, the discharge from the Steele Shaft mine
water treatment plant, a major source of TDS in the lower Dunkard,
has been curtailed, Poister said.
The Steele Shaft plant is operated by Dana Mining Co. to de-water
the abandoned Shannopin Mine and other closed mines in the area in
which Dana mines coal. The plant treats the mine water for acidity
and heavy metals, but not for TDS.
Dana has an agreement with DEP that requires it to curtail its
discharge into the creek during low flow.
“They have a real-time flow management system in place that allows
them to divert discharge during times like this,” Poister said.
The water is diverted and stored in a closed underground mine.
Though there still may be some discharge from the plant, it is
“very much reduced,” Poister said.
DEP contacted the company a couple of weeks ago regarding the
situation in the creek, and the company has complied with DEP’s
order, he said.