Mon Watersheds Concerned About TDS

Morgantown Dominion Post - 17 February 2011
By Alex Lang

Members of the Monongahela Area Watersheds Compact gathered for a meeting and lamented the state Legislature’s removal of some aspects of the Department of Environmental Protection’s proposal for local waterways.

Among the provisions removed by the Senate Natural Resources Committee was a limit on the amount of total dissolved solids (TDS) in waterways and water withdrawal regulations.

“I think it’s a tragedy,” said Amanda Pitzer, executive director of Friends of the Cheat. The compact is a collective of various local water and environmental groups.

She said she thinks some legislators hear the phrase TDS and immediately connect it to Dunkard Creek and think it was a one-time incident. But TDS can affect any stream and cause changes in the taste and smell of water.

A high TDS level was one of the factors that led to a fish kill that wiped out most marine life in Dunkard Creek in 2009.

Pitzer said she is still hopeful that the legislature will consider some type of TDS restriction. Evan Hansen, president of Downstream Strategies, provided the compact a presentation about current federal acts that help regulate water quality.

There is the Clean Water Act, which regulates surface water. There are federal recommendations for items such as TDS, but states set their own standards. There is also the Safe Drinking Water Act. This is for tap water and includes federal standards. There are secondary standards for TDS, but they are not enforceable, Hansen said.

The Safe Drinking Water Act isn’t used to determine how much pollution is in the Monongahela River, Hansen said.

“Safe Drinking Water Acts standards, they apply at the tap and not at the stream,” Hansen said.

Under the Clean Water Act, the Environmental Protection Agency recommends 250 mg/L for TDS. But many states go higher. Pennsylvania, for example, has a 500 mg/L average for its streams. West Virginia has no enforceable criteria for TDS, Hansen said.

Duane Nichols, who is part of the compact, said he believes the Senate Judiciary Committee will reinstate the TDS and water withdrawal provisions.

He said he was surprised when the Natural Resources Committee removed the provisions.

Nichols said he will represent the compact during public hearings in the legislatures over two bills that deal with Marcellus shale hydro-fracking. “Fracking“is the term used to describe the process of fracturing rock to release natural gas.