Bromide Down in Mon, Still Elevated in Allegheny
9 November 2012
Researchers at Carnegie Mellon University say a water quality
problem in the Monongahela River that may have been linked to
Marcellus shale natural gas drilling is going away.
Bromide, which can cause cancer in drinking water, has declined in
the Mon, apparently coinciding with a voluntary ban on disposing
gas drilling wastewater, researcher Jeanne VanBriesen said
Thursday. State officials cited her research in asking for the ban
in the spring of 2011.
However, success has not been universal in Western Pennsylvania,
said Melissa Rubin, spokeswoman at the Pittsburgh Water &
Sewer Authority. Its scientists have still found elevated levels
of bromide in the Allegheny River, the authority’s source for its
drinking water, she said.
“The pollution in the Allegheny River is just as bad as it always
was,” Rubin said. “So although this is a wonderful thing for the
utilities that pull water from the Mon River, that’s just simply
not — unfortunately — it’s not the case for those that pull from
Though not considered a pollutant by themselves, bromides combine
with the chlorine used in water treatment to produce compounds
that can cause cancer.
Preliminary data from this year showed that levels of salty
bromides have declined significantly in the Monongahela when
compared to 2010 and 2011, VanBriesen said. In many cases the
bromides were at undetectable levels in the river this year, and
in general they returned to background, or normal levels.
VanBriesen and some local water authorities first noticed a spike
in the summer of 2010, sparking an investigation from state
environmental regulators. After they asked drillers and public
wastewater treatment plants to stop dumping their partially
treated wastewater into surface water in 2011, bromide levels
didn’t initially go down, VanBriesen had said a year ago, before
her latest findings.
That had led to drilling companies and power plants e_SEmD both of
which can produce bromide as waste — to deny they were
Trib Total Media staff writer Timothy Puko and The Associated
Press contributed to this report.