DEP Says More Testing for TDS in Dunkard and Mon
Washington PA Observer Reporter
17 July 2012
The state Department of Environmental Protection will increase
testing in Dunkard Creek and in parts of the Monongahela River
because of low water flow and the high levels of total dissolved
solids in Dunkard Creek.
“We are concerned about the high conductivity we have seen in
Dunkard Creek and as a result, more inspections have been
ordered,” DEP spokesman John Poister said Monday.
DEP will “intensify” testing in the creek as well as in parts of
the Mon, which is the source of drinking water for more than
350,000 people in Southwestern Pennsylvania.
“We don’t want to have another situation where we’re dealing with
the issue of high levels of TDS on the Mon,” Poister said.
TDS levels in the Mon remain below the state standard of 500 parts
per million but have been increasing and are approach the state
standard, he said. High TDS levels in Dunkard Creek was a “tipoff
we should be vigilant,” Poister said.
Elevated TDS levels were a problem in the Mon in late 2008. Though
the high levels posed no threats to health and safety it did cause
problems for industrial water customers.
TDS levels in the lower Dunkard, measured near Bobtown, started to
increase in the last few weeks and continued that climb through
Monday afternoon, the conductivity reading at the gauge near
Bobtown exceeded 5,720 microsiemens per centimeter, which equals
about 3,660 parts per million TDS.
DEP has attributed the high TDS levels in Dunkard Creek to low
water flow, discharges from abandoned mines and the discharge from
the Steele Shaft mine water treatment plant.
Rainfall in the watershed is down about 3 inches for the year and
are at August levels, Poister said. “There’s a serious flow
problem and unless we get a lot of rain the situation is only
going to get worse.”
High levels of TDS in Dunkard Creek 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.
Because of the low flow in the creek, the mine water discharge
from the Steele Shaft treatment plant, a major source of TDS in
the lower Dunkard, has been curtailed, Poister said.
The Steele Shaft plant is operated by the 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 agreed to reduce its discharge into the creek during low
flow, diverting the water into another closed underground mine.
Dana must pump water from the closed mines to continue its mining
operations. The company has reduced its discharge during the last
couple of week. However, “There’s going to be a period of time
when they are going to have to make a discharge, because the mine
is filling with water,” Poister said.
DEP doesn’t know when that will be but is concerned because the
Steele Shaft discharge now makes up a high percentage of the water
in Dunkard Creek.
The high levels of TDS in water from the Steele Shaft discharge
has been an issue for several years.
The Steele Shaft plant was built to prevent a threatened breakout
from the Shannopin Mine. Dana later began also treating water at
Steele Shaft from the closed Humphrey Mine as its mining
operations moved into the Humphrey Mine area.
“The problem that exists in Dunkard Creek is from the Steele Shaft
and it shouldn’t be that way,” said Sandy Liebhold of the Friends
of Dunkard Creek.
Steele Shaft was developed to treat water from the Shannopin Mine.
No similar threat of a breakout exists at the Humphrey Mine, water
from which is being treated by the mine’s owner, Consol Energy.
Steele Shaft only minimally treats the water and does not remove
the TDS. It is treating water from Humphrey only to allow Dana to
continue to mine, Liebhold said.