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.

PADEP to Test Water at Beth-Center Schools Following Preliminary WVU Report

Written by Scott Beveridge, Observer-Reporter, Washington, PA on . Posted in News

DEEMSTON – The state [Pennsylvania] Department of Environmental Protection will test the water supply to Bethlehem-Center School District next week on the heels of a preliminary report from a university that shows the supply has elevated levels of cancer-causing chemicals.

West Virginia University Water Research Institute, which performed the water test in November and noted unacceptable levels of trihalomethanes at two Beth-Center schools, also will return to the district next week to perform a more in-depth analysis of the water, said Paul Ziemkiewicz, the institute’s director.

“It’s bad news,” Ziemkiewicz said Friday, adding the results from one test were not reason for the school district to panic.

Beth-Center Superintendent Linda Marcolini reached out to the institute last year after being concerned about tests that showed radiation in Ten Mile Creek. WVU performed follow-up tests on the creek and found the water to be within safe limits of radiation.

Read the full article on the Observer-Reporter website.

Survey: Allegheny River water quality holds steady

Written by Mary Ann Thomas, Staff Writer, Trib Total Media on . Posted in News

Water quality is holding steady on the Allegheny River even though Marcellus shale drilling waste water and other river contaminants linger, according to one of the most comprehensive water surveys in the region.

However, all the news is not good: water from a creek in Indiana County that eventually drains into the Allegheny River via the Kiski River near Freeport keeps turning up bromide, a salt often associated with waste water from Marcellus shale fracking and abandoned mine drainage.

When combined with chlorine to treat drinking water drawn from the Allegheny, bromide form the carcinogen trihalomethane (THM).

The results are part of the Three Rivers Quest (3RQ) study, now in its third year, covering more than 30,000 square miles of the Upper Ohio River Basin. There are 54 sampling locations along the Allegheny, Monongahela and Ohio rivers and at the mouths of their major tributaries.

Read the entire article on the Pittsburgh Tribune Review website.

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