Fairmont Community Partners Continue City’s Revitalization Efforts by Opening New Studio

Written by Lauren Talotta, WBOY, March 9, 2015 on . Posted in Media, News

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The city of Fairmont and its partners have a new headquarters for their revitalization efforts.

The city held a ribbon cutting at a new studio for the “Your Neighborhood, Your Future” project – a partnership between Fairmont’s Urban Renewal Authority, landscape architecture students from West Virginia University, and the Brownfields Assistance Center. The project, which is supported by the West Virginia Redevelopment Collaborative (WVRC), affects the city’s Beltline community.


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One of WVRC’s goals is to redevelop areas across West Virginia that have been in decline due to the growth of brownfields, according to a press release from the city. Officials say in this case, the Beltline is a community in Fairmont that has the potential to grow but has experienced problems because of the abandoned warehouses and industries that used to thrive in that area and housing transitioning from owner-occupied to rentals.

See more at:  http://www.wboy.com/story/28313598/fairmont-community-partners-continue-citys-revitalization-efforts-by-opening-new-studio

WVU Researchers’ Novel Strategy Boosts Monongahela River’s Water Quality

Written by WVU on January 15, 2015 on . Posted in Media, News

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Thanks in part to West Virginia University water experts, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has removed the Monongahela River from a list of “impaired” Pennsylvania waterways.

The river was first designated as “impaired” by the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection in 2010 due to sulfate contamination. While sulfate generally does not make water unsafe for humans, it can cause a bad taste and interfere with industrial processes that require purer water.

The West Virginia Water Research Institute at WVU, led by Director Paul Ziemkiewicz, had already launched a study of the Mon River and its major tributaries in 2009.

From that research, the Institute helped develop a novel approach that combined water science with stakeholder collaboration to restore the river in less time than a traditional regulatory process might have taken.

“We were able to gather the data, diagnose the problem and recommend a treatment strategy for the Mon that produced results,” Ziemkiewicz said.

Grants from the Colcom Foundation and the U.S. Geological Survey aided the Institute’s endeavors, creating a voluntary, science-based, non-regulatory, watershed-wide program to wash away the sulfate problem.

How they got there

All streams dissolve minerals and other natural compounds called salts. Therefore, small amounts of dissolved salts are to be expected. Too much, though, causes problems for humans, plants, animals and industrial processes that use water.

In 2008, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in Pittsburgh and water suppliers and users along the Mon River reported very high salt levels in the river.

In the lower Mon River, specific conductivity and total dissolved solids (or TDS) levels, a measure of water quality, were nearly twice as high as those documented during the Corps’ entire 1969-2008 monitoring period. That included the period prior to the mid-1970s when untreated mine drainage and pollution were so severe that fish could not live in the river.

Because of that, the West Virginia Water Research Institute began its study.

Ziemkiewicz said the Institute learned that federal and state agencies monitoring the river had programs, which while useful, could not answer three key questions:

• Which salts were causing the problem?
• Where were they coming from?
• How could they be controlled?

The U.S. Geological Survey’s Water Institutes Program funded initial monitoring efforts. Subsequent funding from the Colcom Foundation established the Three Rivers Quest, a water quality monitoring and reporting program for the Mon, Allegheny and Ohio rivers.

Institute staff, including WVU students in environmental studies programs, has monitored water quality of the Mon and its major tributaries every two weeks since July 2009. Data collected through Three Rivers Quest is available on its website.

By December 2009, it became clear that calcium sulfate was the dominant salt. The sulfate was coming from underground coalmines where water was being pumped out and treated before being discharged into nearby streams. The metals in the mine water were removed, but not the sulfates.

“Calcium sulfate is common in mine water, so we’d identified the source,” Ziemkiewicz said. “We also knew that controlling calcium sulfate would control TDS. We found that high TDS was strictly seasonal.”

Ziemkiewicz noted that from December through July, the river flow runs high, diluting salts well below levels of concern. However, from August through November, the water flows are lower and spikes in sulfate and TDS can occur.

“We met with the coal industry along the Mon and asked them to tell us how much they were pumping from each of their treatment plants and what their TDS concentrations were,” Ziemkiewicz said. “Within a couple of weeks, we had the data and I supplied them with a computer program that showed how much they could discharge from each treatment plant based on the flow in the Mon River that day.

“These are huge, underground mines, between 10 to 20 square miles,” he continued. “The worked out parts of the mine could be used to store water until the river conditions were right. The idea was that by managing the release of treated mine water to coincide with periods when the river was high, we could solve the sulfate and TDS problem.”

It worked.

Industry took Ziemkiewicz’s advice and began discharge management in January 2010. Since then, the levels of both sulfate and TDS have met EPA standards in the Mon River.

In December, the EPA approved the Pennsylvania DEP’s report that the river’s “in-stream level of sulfates now meets Pennsylvania’s water quality standards.”

Ziemkiewicz points out that discharge management only works because industry buys into the process and regular river monitoring validates the outcome.

Carol Zagrocki, of the Colcom Foundation, said, “The accomplishments of the program are a tribute to the unique collaborations among dedicated scientists, academics, and community volunteers striving to improve the health of our rivers and streams, as well as our quality of life.”

While not the answer to every water quality problem, managing water quality on a watershed basis rather than managing individual discharges has advantages.

Improvement is almost immediate.

“Modest financial investment results in major improvements,” Ziemkiewicz said. “We solved the sulfate and TDS problem without costing any miners their jobs or raising anyone’s electricity or water rates.

“And the results meet the intent of the Federal Clean Water Act which is to prevent pollution while restoring polluted waterways without adding any new regulations.

“The beauty is that this is an elegant, co-operative approach for protecting a big river like the Mon. In resource rich states like West Virginia and Pennsylvania, it shows how we can achieve better results when people come together to resolve problems.

“A little science can go a long way.”



CONTACT: Paul Ziemkiewicz, West Virginia Water Research Institute
304.293.6958; paul.ziemkiewicz@mail.wvu.edu

– See more at: http://wvutoday.wvu.edu/n/2015/01/15/wvu-researchers-novel-strategy-boosts-monongahela-river-s-water-quality#sthash.X5QLB7qp.dpuf

‘Water Infrastructure’ Meeting Focus (2014 Mid-Atlantic Regional Water Conference)

Written by Jenni Vincent - The Journal on . Posted in Media, News

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SHEPHERDSTOWN – Dr. Paul Ziemkiewicz doesn’t pretend to predict the future, even though the majority of his efforts overseeing West Virginia University’s Water Research Institute projects are proactive and aimed at looking ahead to prevent potential, water-related environmental problems.

Even so, neither Ziemkiewicz nor his staff could have known in advance just how relevant this year’s Mid-Atlantic Regional Water Conference would be – especially after the Jan. 9 chemical leak into the Elk River from a corroded storage tank at Freedom Industries that left approximately 300,000 water customers in a nine county-region (including people in Charleston) without safe tap water for weeks, because it occurred upstream from the state’s largest water treatment facility.

At that time, a citizen reported the problem, which turned out to be the chemical MCHM that’s typically used in coal preparation plants.

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Sen. John Unger, D-Berkeley and state Senate majority leader, gives the keynote address at the Panel Discussion for Protecting Water Infrastructure from Energy-Related Incidents on Thursday at the 2014 Mid-Atlantic Regional Water Conference at the National Conservation Training Center in Shepherdstown. Other panelists, from left, include Walt Ivy, director, environmental engineering division, West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources; John Kennedy, director, office of ecology and infrastructure, Virginia Department of Environmental Quality; and John Sheehan, director of communications, Adirondack Council. — Ron Agnir

Perhaps not too surprisingly, the regional conference – which was held Wednesday and Thursday at the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s National Conservation Training Center – attracted about 130 participants from a variety of disciplines, including academia, government, research organizations and private business.

In addition to West Virginia, several other states were represented by participants and speakers, including New York, New Jersey, Delaware, Pennsylvania, Virginia and Maryland, as well as Washington, D.C.

Its theme, “The Future of Mid-Atlantic Infrastructure: Challenges and Solutions,” may have been part of the draw, since the two-day event included sessions on tools for managing stormwater, the water and energy development conundrum and planning for future water supplies, as well as planning and response to climate change and flooding.

“What we hope to do here is highlight how to protect our source waters which are now under threat from a number of sources that can impact the quality of public water supplies – whether they are contaminated for a short period, or perhaps long-term. This is an especially good time for this discussion, since the Elk River incident has focused so much concern on this need,” Ziemkiewicz said.

One of the most popular topics dealt with drinking water safety -diverse discussions ranging from environmental concerns to political pressures, as speakers discussed what has been accomplished and what’s still needed.

Thursday’s keynote speaker, Senate Majority Leader John Unger, D-Berkeley, whom Ziemkiewicz praised as having been “extraordinarily engaged” in water issues even before the spill, said he’s glad others are also finally taking an interest in this issue.

A problem of this nature and magnitude could still take place anywhere in the United States, said Unger, adding, “We won’t be judged by the fact this happened in West Virginia, but West Virginia will be judged by what we do about it.”

Unger, who heads the Legislative Oversight Commission on State Water Resources, is credited as the driving force and lead sponsor for Senate Bill 373, a multi-faceted piece of legislation that was signed into law by Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin. It was unanimously passed by legislators and requires the state Department of Environmental Protection to inventory and inspect above-ground storage tanks.

This type of regulatory action will be even more important as time passes, especially since so many places lack the abundance of water resources found in West Virginia, Unger said.

Already anticipating calls for revisiting the new law when the legislature meets again in January, Unger said it is not perfect and may need some tweaking.

But it represents a good start, one that he hopes will continue to bring people together rather than being divided by different interests or stakeholders.

Toward that end, Unger proposed holding a conference for next year to encourage communication among three specific interests – energy, environmental and agriculture.

“This is important because they are usually fighting over the same resource, fresh water, but it is one they all need to survive,” he said.

Panel members who took the floor after Unger discussed other types of threats to water supplies, including an incident earlier this year that sent 39,000 tons of coal ash and 27 million gallons of coal ash pond water into the Dan River from the Duke Energy Dan River Steam Plant site near Eden, North Carolina.

A representative of the Adirondack Environmental Council discussed the catastrophic problems – to both public health and water supplies – that can come from the derailment of railroad cars carrying oil. That’s an increasingly important consideration because of the increased rail shipments of Bakken crude oil from North Dakota in older cars, said communications director John Sheehan.

– See more at: http://www.weirtondailytimes.com/page/content.detail/id/624191/-Water-infrastructure–meeting-focus.html?nav=5006#sthash.65Foq9GF.dpuf