WVU Water Research Presented at Pittsburgh Conference
The State Journal
14 August 2014
By Suzanne Elliott
Drinking water in the Upper Ohio River basin is safe to drink, but
it is still vital that the monitoring of run-off into the region's
rivers and creeks be continued.
That's the conclusion of water quality experts from Pennsylvania,
Ohio and West Virginia who spoke Aug. 11 at the Convergence at the
Confluence, a day-long conference hosted by the Three Rivers QUEST
water quality monitoring program. The event, funded by Colcom
Foundation of Pittsburgh, was held at Duquesne University.
QUEST stands for Quality Useful Environmental Study Teams. It is a
water quality monitoring and reporting system that included
bi-weekly water quality testing during a two-year period led by
the West Virginia Water Research Institute at West Virginia
University. The goal of the program was to determine the amount of
total dissolved solids and various chemicals found in the region's
TDS, which occur naturally and from urban runoff, is a measure of
the combined content of all inorganic and organic items found in a
liquid. It is not considered harmful, but can make water taste
funny and can damage clothing. Spawning fish and young fish,
however, tend to be susceptible when water has high concentrations
of TDS. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has a limit of
500 milligrams of TDS per liter of water, said Beth Dakin of
Duquesne University's Center for Environmental Research and
Education, who spoke at the event.
Water samples had been collected every two weeks by scientists and
volunteers at 54 sites that cover 25,000-square miles along the
region's rivers since January 2013.
Experts offered various chemical interpretations and breakdowns of
data they found at collection points throughout the basin. The
bottom line, however, of the two-year, $700,000 program, was that
water is safe to drink, and there is no obvious manmade impact on
Bruce Dickson, an ecologist with the Clarion-based Iron Furnace
Chapter of Trout Unlimited, a trout and salmon conservation
organization, said he has been monitoring the runoff at Allegheny
National Forest — Pennsylvania's only national forest — since
January, where Marcellus shale drilling has taken and is taking
He said his data shows that deep shale drilling has not had an
effect on the water table. The only two incidents he found that
involved spillage were on site at the gas well pads.
“There has also not been any mine drainage,” said Dickson, one of
the speakers at the conference.
Stan Kabala, associate director of Duquesne's Center for
Environmental Research, said collection of the water samples has
been vital in order to establish a solid picture of what is going
on in the three rivers, especially with the number of coal mines
and the increased number of gas wells being drilled in the three
states. Coal and natural gas provide 80 percent of the energy used
in the U.S.
The samples collected from the Upper Ohio River Basin were
analyzed by a certified laboratory and then sent to Three Rivers,
part of the West Virginia Water Research Institute, to provide
more data and insight on the water basin's health.
“What is important about this is that a solid baseline of river
quality is being put in place that can distinguish among legacy
pollution issues such as abandoned mine drainage, other pollutants
from non-point sources, and more significantly, pollution from
shale gas exploitation,” Kabala said.