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.