Posts Tagged ‘water expert’

Additional WVU testing confirms acceptable levels of radioactivity in drinking water at Clyde Mine

Written by Andrew Stacy on . Posted in Blog, News

Treated affluent from Clyde Mine discharging into Tenmile Creek, Greene County, PA.

Treated affluent 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, sSampling 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

Recent Water Quality Testing of Tenmile Creek Shows Radium Levels Well Below Federal Drinking Water Standards

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, Pennsylvania. Recent water quality testing of Tenmile Creek showed radium levels well below federal drinking water standards.

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.

The Lowdown on Fracking

Written by Michelle Taylor, Editor-in-Chief, Labratory Equipment on . Posted in Media, News

What’s the real story behind fracking? The question is a viable one when it comes to the process of hydraulic fracturing, or extracting oil and gas from shale rock deposits deep below the Earth’s surface. Fracking in the United States currently stands in the crosshairs of a scientific, environmental and political debate that has raised more questions than answers.

In this instance, there are more than two sides to the coin. Each side has its opinion, each side has its research and each side has its motivations—which means we as a nation do not have a consensus. Does fracking contaminate the drinking supply? Is it a long-term option to help reduce energy costs? Does it cause earthquakes? Is it no more toxic than household chemicals?

The one thing all sides do agree on is the need for answers, to these questions and many more. The pathway to answers is simple—more research. According to PSE Healthy Energy, an organization that collects peer-reviewed papers on fracking, of the approximately 550 papers in their repository now, 75 percent of them have been authored in the last year and a half.

“That tells you there is a rapid increase in the amount of scientific investigation going on,” PSE founder and president Anthony Ingraffea told Laboratory Equipment. Ingraffea, a retired professor of engineering at Cornell University, is considered an expert on hydraulic fracturing, even consulting on the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) recent report.

Given this increasing amount of research, it can be difficult to get a handle on all subsequent information and data. This article examines recent news concerning the most talked-about applications surrounding fracking.

Hydraulic fracturing is not new; the process has been around for decades. What is new is what the technology drills into—shale rock. There are hundreds of miles of shale rock in the U.S. that, until recent years, were largely untapped natural gas reserves. For example, the well-known Marcellus Shale Region runs 600 miles at 900 feet deep along the Appalachian Basis in the Eastern U.S., touching New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio and West Virginia.

In the 80s and 90s, traditional gas and oil wells targeted specific underground pools where the resources collected. If you drilled into the pool, you got lucky. If you missed, you made a dry hole. Conversely, if a shale region is found to be abundant with gas, you could drill anywhere the rock formation is present.

This is where the controversy picks up. Unlike traditional methods, this unconventional fracking method calls for an abundant amount of gas wells to be placed in a single region in order to get as much as possible out of the shale formation.

“It is an issue of spatial intensity,” Ingraffea said. “There are gas well pads across from schools and swimming pools and between the runways of the airport. There are pads within a few hundred feet of private property because the gas and oil is everywhere.”

Drinking water

Five years in the making, the EPA released its “Hydraulic Fracturing Drinking Water Assessment” report in early June. The draft report, which was commissioned in 2010 by Congress, concluded that fracking has not had a significant impact on water supplies, but remains cautious of possible risks.

“We did not find evidence that [above and below ground] mechanisms have led to widespread, systemic impacts on drinking water resources in the United States,” the EPA report reads. “The number of identified cases where drinking water resources were impacted are small relative to the number of hydraulically fractured wells.”

Two sentences later the report says there is insufficient pre- and post-hydraulic fracturing data on the quality of drinking water resources, which inhibits a determination of the frequency of impacts.

Since its release, the draft report has received flak for being nothing more than a 1,000+ page literature review on already-published information.

“There is no original data or original analysis,” Paul Ziemkiewicz, director of the West Virginia Water Research Institute, told Laboratory Equipment. “It would have benefited from more widespread sampling, especially in waste streams and basins. Another thing it did not have was any recommended practices, which I think [EPA] should have done.”

Read the entire article on the Labratory Equipment website.

West Virginia Water Research Institute to co-host Water Resources Conference Oct. 5-6; announces Call for Abstracts

Written by Andrew Stacy on . Posted in Blog, Events, News

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – The West Virginia Water Research Institute at West Virginia University is accepting abstracts through August 14 for the 2015 Water Resources Conference of the Virginias. The West Virginia Water Research Institute and the Virginia Water Resources Research Center at Virginia Tech will co-host the event, which takes place October 5-6, at Stonewall Resort in Roanoke, W.Va.

The conference combines exceptional educational programs with opportunities for researchers, policy makers, state and federal agencies, environmental consultants, private organizations and the public to share in the latest information, technologies and research relating to West Virginia’s and Virginia’s water resources.

logo_theme_dateThe theme for this year’s conference is “Water – Energy – Agriculture.” Researchers from colleges and universities, state and federal agencies, private organizations, consulting firms, industry and students are invited to submit abstracts for consideration for oral presentation. Abstracts for basic and applied research papers are being solicited in all areas related to water resources including agriculture, energy, monitoring, policy, supply, technology, water quality and others.

“Agriculture and energy are the two biggest consumers of water in the United States,” said Dr. Paul Ziemkiewicz, director of the West Virginia Water Research Institute. “We need to find technical, management, policy and economic solutions that will lessen the water requirements of the energy and agriculture sectors while finding better ways to treat and use marginal water resources.

West Virginia is the headwaters for many of the nation’s major rivers and WVU is a regional leader in water research. Our goal for this conference is to initiate an open dialogue among policy makers, water users and researchers and move toward solutions that will apply across the country.”

For more information about the 2015 Water Resources Conference of the Virginias, including registration and abstract submission details, please visit www.wrcvirginias.org.

The West Virginia Water Research Institute was established in 1967 and serves as a statewide vehicle for performing research related to water issues. It is the premier water research center in West Virginia and, within selected fields, an international leader.