By dipping four sample bottles into the icy waters where the Monongahela and Allegheny Rivers meet to form the Ohio River, a delegation of scientists commemorated the expansion of an award-winning water quality monitoring and reporting program that tracks the health of the river waters that serve the needs of millions of Americans.
The Institute began the monitoring program on the Monongahela River in 2009 after concerns arose over a high concentration of total dissolved solids in the river that exceeded federal standards for drinking water. The effort led to strategies developed in conjunction with energy producing companies that have since helped to alleviate the problem. The program is currently being expanded to include the Allegheny and upper Ohio River Basins.
While in the field, technicians record field data and collect water samples that undergo a rigorous chemical analysis at a state certified laboratory. In addition to Institute’s research, local watershed organizations participate in the monitoring program by collecting field data from various locations in the headwater streams of the river’s tributaries. The resulting data is disseminated to the public on a public website so the millions of persons who rely on the rivers for their drinking water and other uses can get the results.
QUEST’s success resulted in national recognition when it was awarded a Regional IMPACT Award by the National Institutes for Water Resources. A $700,000 grant from Colcom to the Water Research Institute quickly followed which enabled the program to expand to cover the two additional rivers.
This week, those three new partners joined WVU officials and Colcom representatives at Point State Park to commemorate the formal expansion of the project by taking the first official water samples from the additional rivers; presentation of commemorative checks for their new work; and celebrate a new name for the overall project – 3 Rivers QUEST.
Project partners who will execute the water monitoring in the expanded territories were chosen in a competitive process.
Wheeling Jesuit University, represented by Dr. Benjamin Stout, was selected to monitor the water quality of the upper Ohio River areas from Pittsburgh, downstream to near Parkersburg.
Duquesne University in Pittsburgh, represented by Drs. John Stolz, Brady Porter, Elisabeth Dakine and Stanley Kabala will monitor the lower Allegheny River and its key tributaries.
The Iron Furnace Chapter of Pennsylvania Trout Unlimited, represented by Dr. Bruce Dickson, will monitor the upper portions of the Allegheny River and its tributaries. All three organizations were awarded $100,000 checks to move the program forward.
Institute officials said the QUEST program is successful because it provides the public, industry, agencies and organizations with an easy to understand visualization of the health of the watershed systems over a period of time on an accessible website where water quality changes can be monitored and problem situations timely addressed.
“The Mon River QUEST program has already yielded an unprecedented amount of water quality information for a large river system such as the Monongahela River Basin,” said Institute Director Dr. Paul Ziemkiewicz. “I’m not aware of any other large river system in the country that has this level of detailed, publicly accessible monitoring information. It has already allowed us to work with stakeholders to improve water quality on the Monongahela River and identify areas that need attention. Expanding the program to include the Allegheny and upper Ohio Rivers will build on a successful model and make this a truly regional tool for managing water quality.”
For more information about the QUEST program, visit: http://3riversquest.org/
The West Virginia Water Research Institute based at West Virginia University has been in existence since 1967 and serves as a statewide vehicle for performing research related to water issues. It is the premier water research center in West Virginia and, within selected fields, an international leader. Under Federal legislation, the United States Geological Survey supports a Water Research Institute in each U.S. state and territory.
CONTACT: Dave Saville, West Virginia Water Research Institute
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