MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – Tenmile Creek is an important tributary to the Monongahela River, running 40 miles through forested hills and farms in Greene County, Pennsylvania. In 2015, Ken Dufalla, president of the Izaak Walton League of America’s (IWLA) local chapter obtained 2014 water quality data for Tenmile Creek from the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (PADEP). After reviewing the data, Dufalla contacted Dr. Paul Ziemkiewicz, director of West Virginia University’s Water Research Institute (WVWRI) in nearby Morgantown and the two concluded that the data indicated unusually high levels of radium. In response, the two decided to sample the same sites that the PADEP sampled to verify the results.
So, in June 2015, Dufalla guided WVWRI personnel to three coal mine discharges into Tenmile Creek. The samples were analyzed by Pace Analytical Services, a state-certified lab in Greensburg, Pennsylvania. The results showed that radium was no higher than 0.75 pCi/L, well below the drinking water standard of 5 pCi/L set by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. In contrast, the 2014 PADEP radium readings were as high as 300 pCi/L.
“Pace Analytical used the USEPA recommended methods for determining radium in drinking water, so our results should be highly reliable,” said Ziemkiewicz.
Ziemkiewicz indicated that the PADEP is in the middle of re-sampling Tenmile Creek and he looks forward to comparing results.
Funded by the Colcom Foundation, the WVWRI’s Three Rivers QUEST (3RQ) REACH program provided the means for WVWRI 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.
Tags: 3 Rivers QUEST, 3RQ, Colcom Foundation, Dr. Paul Ziemkiewicz, Monongahela River, Paul Ziemkiewicz, water, water expert, water quality, water quality monitoring, West Virginia Water Research Institute, WVWRI