Additional WVU testing confirms acceptable levels of total trihalomethane in drinking water in Southwestern Pennsylvania

Written by Andrew Stacy on . Posted in News, Press Release

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

WVU teams up with the Boy Scouts to develop STEM program at Summit Bechtel Reserve

Written by Andrew Stacy on . Posted in Blog, News, Press Release

Coordinated by WVWRI, an interdisciplinary team of researchers from the WVU Davis College of Agriculture, Natural Resources and Design and the Eberly College of Arts and Sciences will introduce scouts and their adult leaders to the environmental STEM field, particularly the aquatic sciences, while using the site as an ecology observatory and laboratory.

Coordinated by WVWRI, an interdisciplinary team of researchers from the WVU Davis College of Agriculture, Natural Resources and Design and the Eberly College of Arts and Sciences will introduce scouts and their adult leaders to the environmental STEM field, particularly the aquatic sciences, while using the site as an ecology observatory and laboratory.

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – West Virginia Water Research Institute Director Paul Ziemkiewicz announced today a project to establish an environmental science, technology, engineering, and math education and research program with the Boy Scouts of America’s Bechtel Summit Reserve near Oak Hill, West Virginia.

An interdisciplinary team of researchers from the WVU Davis College of Agriculture, Natural Resources and Design and the Eberly College of Arts and Sciences will introduce scouts and their adult leaders to the environmental STEM field, particularly the aquatic sciences, while using the site as an ecology observatory and laboratory.

The team will include Todd Petty, professor of wildlife and fisheries resources, Jim Anderson, professor of wildlife and fisheries resources, Nicolas Zegre, associate professor of forest hydrology, and Richard Thomas, professor of biology.

Through the program, scouts will earn merit badges while learning about ecology, biology, water science, wildlife and wetlands. Scouts will receive hands-on training through taking measurements, entering data and plotting simple graphs to see the results.

Fred King, vice president for research at WVU, is a strong supporter of the program. “This is a great opportunity to introduce a new generation of leaders to the environmental sciences, West Virginia and West Virginia University. They will find that we have a beautiful state and an outstanding natural laboratory to pursue meaningful studies while receiving hands on guidance from our leading environmental faculty.”

The reserve is the BSA’s newest high-adventure camp and is adjacent to the New River Gorge National River and more than 13 miles of the property border the park, providing access to more than 70,000 acres of managed, Appalachian highlands wilderness beyond the summit property. Up to 50,000 scouts are expected to be on site for major events such as the National Scout Jamboree, which typically takes place in July, with about 20,000 cycling through the site every two weeks during the remainder of the summer.

Federal funding of this project is provided through the U.S. Geological Survey’s section 104b program. The USGS awards 104b grants to State Water Research Institutes that have been established in each of the 50 states, three U.S. territories and the District of Columbia under the provisions of the Water Resources Research Act of 1984. The West Virginia Water Research Institute, a program of the National Research Center for Coal and Energy at West Virginia University, serves as a statewide vehicle for performing research related to water issues. WVWRI is the premiere water research center in West Virginia and, within selected fields, an international leader.

-WVWRI-

as03/21/16