WVU Researcher Recognized for work in Land Reclamation

Written by Andrew Stacy on . Posted in Blog, News

Morgantown, W.Va. — The American Society of Mining and Reclamation awarded its 2017 Pioneers in Reclamation Award to Dr. Paul Ziemkiewicz, director of the West Virginia Water Research Institute, for his significant impact to and advancement of the art and science of land reclamation over his career.

“The role of science is to make the world a better and safer place,” said Ziemkiewicz.

Making the world a better place is exactly what Ziemkiewicz has done over his 39 year career. It began with his training at Utah State University, where he graduated with a B.S. degree in biology. He then earned his M.S. in range ecology at Utah State University and his Ph.D. in forest ecology at the University of British Columbia.

In 1978, Ziemkiewicz became the director of the reclamation research program for Alberta Energy. While there, he developed a land use based mine reclamation strategy that was adopted by the Alberta Government.

In 1988, he moved to West Virginia to serve as director of the National Mine Land Reclamation Center at West Virginia University where he worked to address environmental impacts from historic coal mining. He has served as director of the West Virginia Water Research Institute since 1991. In this role he has worked to promote and implement scientifically sound strategies that prevent pollution from active mining.

In 1995, his research led the Federal Clean Streams Initiative to restore hundreds of miles of streams rendered lifeless by mining prior to the Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act of 1977. As a result, West Virginia’s Cheat River, Maryland’s North Branch of the Potomac, Pennsylvania’s Conemaugh River and Kentucky’s Rock Creek are valuable fisheries.

Ziemkiewicz led the formulation of U.S. Office of Surface Mining’s acid mine drainage (AMD) policy in 1997. He received the 2005 Environmental Conservation Distinguished Service Award from the Society for Mining, Metallurgy and Exploration. Ziemkiewicz has also contributed his expertise to agencies and companies in India, China, Poland, Germany, Indonesia and South Africa.

With funding from Colcom Foundation and the U.S. Geological Survey, he launched 3 Rivers QUEST, a program to protect and improve water quality in the Upper Ohio River Basin in 2009. The program monitors the Ohio, Allegheny and Monongahela Rivers and their major tributaries.

In December 2010, the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection declared 62 miles of the Monongahela River “impaired” for potable water use due to high salt content. The 3RQ program identified unregulated sulfates from coal mine water treatment facilities during low stream flow as the source of the problem. After meeting with industry representatives, he developed a computer model that adjusted treated discharge rates to river flow, thus maintaining salt levels well below drinking water standards. The industry voluntarily embraced the model and have used it since. As a result, after five years of 3RQ monitoring, PADEP and EPA declared the river no longer impaired.

When asked why he chose to focus on land reclamation and energy issues, he discussed growing up in western Pennsylvania in the 1950’s before any laws in reclamation existed. This gave him first-hand awareness of the need for technology and laws for reclamation. Receiving the 2017 Pioneers in Reclamation Award is extremely important to Ziemkiewicz.

“It is very gratifying to have recognition from my peers. ASMR is the original and internationally recognized organization for land restoration and I have an enormous respect for them.”

Other awards received by Ziemkiewicz include the 1985 E.M. Watkin Award for Outstanding Contribution to the Betterment of Land Reclamation from the Canadian Land Reclamation Association and the 2005 Environmental Conservation Distinguished Service Award from the Society for Mining, Metallurgy and Exploration.

Ziemkiewicz said he feels that his flexibility and ability to change focus have been most influential. Next in his career, he hopes to focus on cleaning up acid mine drainage and watersheds and grow fisheries on former mines by using the same technology that turned Cheat Lake into a first-class fishery.

Additional WVU testing confirms acceptable levels of total trihalomethane in drinking water in Southwestern Pennsylvania

Written by Andrew Stacy on . Posted in Blog

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – Additional testing by the West Virginia Water Research Institute (WVWRI) shows acceptable levels of total trihalomethane (THM) in drinking water at Beth Center Elementary and High Schools in Washington County, Pennsylvania. Those and nine other locations throughout Washington and Greene counties were sampled in February with similar results.

Last November, WVWRI tested samples collected at Beth Center Elementary and Beth Center High School that showed high THM levels.

Total THMs are regulated in drinking water supplied by water authorities. They form when water is chlorinated to control microbial pathogens. Chlorine reacts with methane in the water which allows the halogens-chloride and bromide to attach and form THM. There are four THMs with varying amounts of chloride and bromide.

The Federal Safe Drinking Water Act regulates the amount of total THM delivered to customers to 80 micrograms/liter when averaged over a year. Pennsylvania regulations require sampling for THM every three months and compliance is based on the average of the four most recent quarterly samples. So, while the November readings were reason for concern, further sampling was needed to determine whether an immediate threat existed.

The WVWRI, with support from the Colcom Foundation, conducted a one-month long effort to determine THM levels in five water systems along the Monongahela River from Brownsville, Pennsylvania to the West Virginia state line. Included were: Pennsylvania American Water at Brownsville, Charleroi, Tri-County, Southwestern Pa. and East Dunkard Water Authorities.

Dr. Paul Ziemkiewicz, director of the WVWRI at West Virginia University said four weekly samples were taken in February 2016 in the Monongahela River upstream of the water system intakes and at 11 locations throughout the distribution networks including the Beth Center Elementary and High Schools, where last November’s high readings were found. Both schools are served by the Southwestern Pennsylvania Water Authority, which according to state records is in compliance with total THM standards. Flow in the Monongahela River during that period ranged from about 5,000 to 37,000 cfs, averaging a little over 20,000 cfs.

Ziemkiewicz commented that the flow was “high but not unusual for winter on the Mon.”

“There’s always a concern that pollutants are concentrated during low flows and diluted during high flows, and during the November 2015 sampling flow was 2,400 cfs. Serious low flow on the upper Mon is below 1,000 cfs.”

Ziemkiewicz pointed out that the February sampling results did not find any total THM exceedances.

“We were concerned that the high November readings at the Beth Center schools might indicate a trend of increasing THM and we had a couple readings [taken in the Tri-County Water Authority system] in the 70 microgram/liter range in February but none in excess of the 80 microgram limit,” said Ziemkiewicz. “This suggests seasonal exceedances but when averaged out over the year would indicate compliance with water quality standards.”

“That is consistent with PADEP’s findings for the Southwestern Pa. Water Authority which services the Beth Center schools. November’s high total THM levels coincided with late summer/autumn low flows, when water treatment systems are likely to use higher rates of chlorination.”

-WVWRI-

Contact: Paul Ziemkiewicz, Ph.D., Director, West Virginia Water Research Institute
304.293.6958, pziemkie@wvu.edu

as/3/22/16

Updated 3/31/16

Additional WVU testing confirms acceptable levels of radioactivity in drinking water at Clyde Mine

Written by Andrew Stacy on . Posted in Blog, News

Clyde Mine Discharge Tenmile Creek

Treated effluent from Clyde Mine discharging into Tenmile Creek, Greene County, PA.

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – Additional testing by the West Virginia Water Research Institute (WVWRI) at Clyde Mine on Tenmile Creek shows acceptable radium levels in drinking water.

Tenmile Creek is the primary watershed within Greene County Pennsylvania, passing through Waynesburg before joining the Monongahela River in Clarksville, Pennsylvania.

“We looked hard and just could not find any evidence of harmful radiation levels,” said Dr. Paul Ziemkiewicz, director of the WVWRI.

Methodology

WVWRI sampled the Clyde Mine discharge on Tenmile Creek six times over a two-week period beginning in late July to make sure the results were representative. That data showed that the highest minimum detectable concentration (MDC) of alpha radiation was 2.95 pCi/L, while the drinking water limit is 5 pCi/L. The reported values averaged 0.74 pCi/L.

In April 2014, sampling done by the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (PADEP) in April 2014 indicated high levels of radium in discharges to Tenmile Creek from the abandoned Clyde Mine and coal refuse piles farther upstream near Waynesburg and another at the Cumberland Mine on Whiteley Creek.

“The radium numbers were high but not consistent with the much lower gross alpha radiation readings,” said Ziemkiewicz. “Radium is an alpha emitter and the gross alpha reading should be the sum of all of the alpha emitters.

Ziemkiewicz said there were to other problems with the data.

“It wasn’t clear from the 2014 PADEP data which analytical method was used to determine radium concentrations, and the MDC were not provided,” he said. “MDC tells you the lowest data value that can be reported with confidence. For example, if the MDC is 100 all you can say is that the actual value is somewhere between zero and 100.”

Ziemkiewicz explained that if the reading is 50 and the MDC is 100 you still can only say that the actual value is somewhere between zero and 100.

“This is extremely important to remember when evaluating radiochemical results,” he said. “When we saw these inconsistencies we decided to resample and reanalyze using approved EPA methods. We guessed that PADEP determined radium by gamma spectroscopy.”

According to Ziemkiewicz, that method is used mainly as a screening tool for solid wastes.
“It’s cheap but not very precise when used for water samples,” said Ziemkiewicz. “It may be the best method for undiluted Marcellus flowback water where interfering ions like strontium and barium measure in the thousands of milligrams per liter. But the Clyde mine discharge had zero barium and only 6.6 milligrams per liter of strontium, so interference is not an issue. That’s why we used the more precise radiochemistry methods.”

In June of this year, WVWRI sampled the same sites that PADEP had sampled in 2014 and sent the water samples to PACE Analytical Services in Greensburg, Pennsylvania, for analysis. PACE is a state-certified radiochemistry lab. The radium results came in well below EPA drinking water levels.

The only parameter that was close to the drinking water limit was gross alpha, which was 13.4 pCi/L. The drinking water limit is 15 pCi/L. However, the total dissolved solids were high in this sample. So in addition to EPA method 900.0, WVWRI asked PACE to use EPA method 7110C, which is recommended for high-total dissolved solids water.

Providing research data for residents

Funded by the Colcom Foundation, the WVWRI’s Three Rivers QUEST (3RQ) REACH program provided the means to initiate this targeted study for radiologicals on Tenmile Creek in response to residents’ concerns.

The 3RQ program brings together academic researchers with grassroots organizations by collecting field water-quality data and information from local water monitoring groups that are in tune with the health of their local watersheds.

“Several watershed organizations have been monitoring along Tenmile Creek. When their field instruments suggest something unusual we can respond with more detailed chemical analysis. Testing for radiologicals is expensive and beyond the means of most citizens,” said Melissa O’Neal, 3RQ project manager. “Results from this targeted study provide reliable data to local residents who are concerned about the quality of their streams.”

The 3RQ program has been monitoring the mouth of Tenmile Creek since 2009 for a suite of chemical parameters. Results from WVWRI and its partner grassroots water monitoring organizations is shared with the public on the program’s website, 3RiversQUEST.org.

CONTACT: Andrew Stacy, West Virginia Water Research Institute
304-293-7085; ASTACY@mail.wvu.edu

WVWRI Welcomes New Environmental Scientist

Written by Andrew Stacy on . Posted in Blog, News

Chapman_Chance

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – The West Virginia Water Research Institute (WVWRI) is pleased to announce that Chance Chapman has joined its team as its new Environmental Scientist. The WVWRI is a program of the National Research Center for Coal and Energy at West Virginia University. Chapman, a West Virginia native, earned his undergraduate degree in Natural Resource Management from Glenville State University.

“I look forward to being able to put my skillset to work in a way which positively impacts the environment and aids in working towards the goal of leaving the environment better than when one of our projects began,” said Chapman.

Most recently, Chapman earned his Juris Doctor from the West Virginia University College of Law with a concentration in Energy and Sustainable Development Law, something which he feels will benefit him greatly in his new position.

“My combination of education in both the scientific and legal aspects of environmental protection and restoration has provided me with a unique understanding of both the scientific and legal issues associated with water quality management,” he continued.

In his new role, Chapman will perform water chemistry-related field and laboratory research activities and will help implement land reclamation projects by collaborating with state and federal agencies, watershed organizations, university researchers and external contractors.

“I have always had an interest in the outdoors and the environment,” said Chapman. “Growing up in West Virginia I have seen firsthand the positives and negatives that go along with mineral extraction. In my new role at WRI, I am excited to be involved in research that could potentially have positive impacts on both industry and communities.”

Chapman is excited to get to work doing something that is important to him and that he enjoys. His professional interests include energy, sustainable development and natural resource management.

“We are very lucky to have Chance join our team,” said Melissa O’Neal, program manager for the WVWRI. “His education and experience will be of great value to our staff and will provide us with more opportunity for collaboration with state and private entities.”

Contact:
Andrew Stacy, Public Relations Coordinator, West Virginia Water Research Institute
304-293-7085
astacy@mail.wvu.edu