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

Wheeling Jesuit University Biology Team To Assist WVU In $350,000 Water Monitoring Quality Study

Written by WTOV on . Posted in News

WHEELING, W.Va. — Wheeling Jesuit University biology students, along with Professor Dr. Ben Stout, will assist the West Virginia Water Research Institute and West Virginia University with a $350,000 grant to expand a regional water quality monitoring program called Three Rivers QUEST.
The Colcom Foundation, a Pittsburgh-based private foundation dedicated to fostering a sustainable environment, provided for the launch of the Mon River QUEST in 2010 after monitoring began in 2009 on the Monongahela River through a U.S. Geological Survey grant. The effort expanded to become Three Rivers QUEST (3RQ), with Colcom Foundation contributing more than…Read the full article at the WTOV website.