Posts Tagged ‘water quality’

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

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