Mon River QUEST wins regional IMPACT Award for water research
Published: Sunday, February 12, 2012
Updated: Monday, February 13, 2012 00:02
The Mon River QUEST, a comprehensive water quality survey administered at 16 locations along the Monongahela River, received a regional IMPACT Award from the National Institutes for Water Resources.
The project, founded by the West Virginia Water Research Institute at West Virginia University, received the Mid-Atlantic Region IMPACT Award. Mon River QUEST is an automatic nominee for the National IMPACT Award. Representatives of the seven regional IMPACT Award winners will appear at the annual National Institutes for Water Resources meeting Feb. 14 in D.C., where each will give a presentation on their project.
"We've already had an impact, we're growing the program, there's a large amount of interest in the program and it's having positive results on a major river system in our region," said Paul Ziemkiewicz, director of the WVWRI.
The Mon River QUEST began sampling in summer 2009, Ziemkiewicz said, and recorded high levels of Total Dissolved Solids in the Monongahela River and its major tributaries. Common compounds included in TDS reading are calcium, phosphates, nitrates, sodium, potassium and chloride, which can be caused by storm water and nutrient runoff, and can cause changes in the smell and taste of drinking water.
Ziemkiewicz said a contributor to high levels of TDS in the river comes from the coal industry, which pumps water from its mine sites to continue production in deep mines.
The results from the organization's surveys have been used to determine trends in the amount of TDS pumped into the river and enable the group to advise the coal industry in different ways to prevent incurring high levels of TDS.
"We've been able to use those results and go back to the coal industry and say, ‘Look, all of the high TDS issues we're seeing are occurring during low-flow periods in our streams and rivers between August and November, so why don't you guys back off your pumping during low-flow periods and pump more during high-flow periods?'" Ziemkiewicz said.
"They implemented it almost immediately, and ever since, we haven't seen any exceedances in sulfates and TDS since January 2010."
The Monongahela River originates in north-central West Virginia and provides drinking water to nearly one million people. The river is 128 miles long and has a drainage basin of 7,340 square miles. It flows north through southwestern Pennsylvania to Pittsburgh, where it meets the Allegheny River to form the Ohio River.
The organization has also reached out to watershed alliances around the area to create a larger impact in patrolling water quality for the area.
"We are working with watershed groups throughout the Mon River basin in West Virginia, Pennsylvania and Maryland – groups such as Friends of Decker's Creek, Friends of Cheat, Guardians of the West Fork, the Greene County Watershed Alliance in Pennsylvania – about 15 in total," said Dave Saville, outreach coordinator for Mon River QUEST. "Because we use volunteers, TDS are fairly easy to monitor for, so there are citizen volunteers associated with these groups monitoring the water."
To view detailed information on the water sampling in the Monongahela River, visit www.monriverquest.com.