A Plume Of Pollution Discolors Part of Monongahela River
31 January 2017
By Don Hopey
An iron-orange acid water discharge from a long-abandoned coal
mine discolored the Monongahela River for a four-mile stretch
along the Allegheny County-Washington County border over the
weekend, raising public concern but causing no problems for public
water suppliers downriver.
The discharge from the Boston Gas Mine, its volume boosted by
recent rains, enters the river in the small Sunfish Run tributary
at Sunnyside, in Forward, 34 river miles from Pittsburgh’s Point.
Beginning Saturday evening and continuing through Sunday, it was
visible flowing downriver in a 75-foot wide plume that hugged the
east bank until blending into the river near New Eagle.
“It was orange, and it had to be an enormous amount of water to
color the Mon,” said Janet Roslund, a resident of Monongahela,
where she viewed the plume. “Something about that is just not
Neil Shader, a spokesman for the Pennsylvania Department of
Environmental Protection, said the plume likely contained iron,
aluminum and manganese, and the department is continuing to take
water samples. “At this time there is no concern for drinking
water, and water systems have systems in place to remove the
contaminants,” he said.
The Ohio River Valley Water Sanitation commission notified all
downriver water suppliers on the Allegheny and Ohio rivers, but
the closest, Pennsylvania American Water, with intakes 10 miles
down the Mon in Elrama and 18 miles downriver at Becks Run,
reported no water quality problems.
“We’ve been monitoring the intakes for the past 40 hours and have
found no impacts to the water supply,” Gary Lobaugh, a water
company spokesman said Monday. “We’ve increased our sampling of
source water to every hour but seen nothing impacting our water
According to Joe Donovan, a geologist at West Virginia University
who studies abandoned mine discharges in the Mon Valley, the
abandoned Boston Gas mine is a large mining complex that has
approximately eight outcrop discharges along the river between
Donora and Monongahela. The one on Sunfish Run that created the
orange plume in the river is the largest, he said.
“Nothing new here,” he said. “(The) flow may be up this time of
year, especially right after a precip event.”
Don Hopey: email@example.com, 412-263-1983, or on Twitter