Posts Tagged ‘water quality’

National Water Quality Monitoring Council recognizes WVWRI and 3RQ

Written by Andrew Stacy on . Posted in Media, News

The West Virginia Water Research Institute and Three Rivers QUEST have been recognized for their work in improving the water quality of the Monongahela River by the National Water Quality Monitoring Council.

The programs are featured in a success story in the council’s Spring 2015 Issue of National Water Monitoring News.

The National Water Quality Monitoring Council brings together scientists, managers, and citizens to ensure information about the quality of U.S. water resources is accurate, reliable and comparable.

The newsletter highlighted the program implemented by WVWRI and 3RQ to improve the Mon River.

In 2010, the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (PADEP) declared the Monongahela River impaired for potable water use due to the presence of sulfate salts.

A plan, spearheaded by WVWRI, combined water science with stakeholder collaboration, sought to restore the river in less time than the traditional regulatory process.  3RQ provided the data necessary for the improvement plan, as well as the statistics of its success.

By 2010, the plan was in effect and sulfate concentrations in the Monongahela River began to decrease. As a result, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency approved PADEP’s decision to remove the Mon from the “impaired for potable water use” listing in late 2014.

$350,000 Grant Expands WVWRI Water Quality Monitoring of Mon, Allegheny and Ohio Rivers

Written by Tamara Vandivort on . Posted in Blog, News

Mon RiverbyMelissaONeal_20121113

Morgantown, W.Va. – The West Virginia Water Research Institute, a program of West Virginia University, has been awarded a $350,000 grant from the Colcom Foundation to continue and expand a regional water quality monitoring program called Three Rivers QUEST.

The Colcom Foundation, a Pittsburgh-based private foundation dedicated to fostering a sustainable environment, provided for the launch of the Mon River QUEST in 2010 after monitoring began in 2009 on the Monongahela River through a U.S. Geological Survey grant. The effort expanded to become the Three Rivers QUEST (3RQ), with Colcom Foundation contributing more than $1.6 million toward its overall efforts.

The current 3RQ program allows researchers to identify long-term water quality trends in the three river basins for which the program takes its name – Allegheny, Monongahela and Ohio. This latest award will allow the program to continue and expand its focus.

“The program is evolving,” said Carol Zagrocki, Colcom Foundation Environmental Program director. “It has become a valuable tool that 3RQ’s academic partners and local watershed groups can use to collaboratively resolve water quality issues and keep our water safe and clean.”

“Since its inception, the 3RQ has been a model for river and ecosystem research,” said Dr. Stan Kabala, 3RQ program coordinator for the Allegheny Region – based out of the Center for Environmental Research and Education at Duquesne University. “It applies exemplary inter-university collaboration, rigorous science and a commitment to community engagement to an ecologically and economically complex river system.”

The new Colcom grant creates REACH, which stands for Research Enhancing Awareness via Community Hydrology.

“In its first two years, 3RQ gathered an impressive arsenal of water-quality data on its three rivers,” said Kabala. “Now, the new “REACH” program will take this data into the communities of the 3RQ region to engage citizens and citizen scientists to use that information to protect the water, the ecosystems, and the livelihoods that those rivers make possible.”

Through REACH, each partner will appoint a coordinator to serve as a liaison between researchers and the public. The coordinators will provide training to water-monitoring groups about the management tools available in the QUEST database. They also will engage with academic and educational institutions to build connections and disseminate data. All the data in this database is available via an interactive map.

The data that program researchers have collected has provided valuable information about the health of these waterways to scientists, state and federal agencies and the public. One of the program’s major accomplishments was the delisting of sulfate contamination of Monongahela River by the Pennsylvania Department of Environment Protection (PADEP) in late 2014.

“3RQ has engaged the community with the region’s leading water scientists with outcomes that may be unique at the national level,” said Dr. Paul Ziemkiewicz, WVU’s West Virginia Water Research Institute director. “For example, as a direct result of 3RQ’s work on sulfate pollution, both PADEP and the United States Environmental Protection Agency agreed last December that it no longer impaired drinking water supplies on the Monongahela River. By making our regular stream and river monitoring data available on our website, the public is empowered, knowing the status of their streams and helping identify potential threats to the aquatic ecosystem.”

With the assistance 3RQ provided, volunteer water quality monitoring groups have trained over 50 volunteers, collected field data at over 100 sites, have deployed around 60 continuous data loggers, and have collected samples for the analytical laboratory analysis at 70 sites.

“With the REACH initiative, we are able to take the data collected by volunteers a step further,” said Melissa O’Neal, 3RQ Program manager. “The mini-grant program previously assisted groups with acquiring training, equipment, and staff time.

“Now that a lot of the volunteers are equipped, we can take a close look at the data they are collecting and identify areas of concern. With this grant we have funding to go in and work with the watershed groups to perform targeted studies.

“We are not only collecting more data to determine the impairment,” said O’Neal, “but working with watershed groups and local entities to improve water quality.”

About Three Rivers QUEST
Led by WVWRI, 3RQ includes a coordinated regional network of research partners, including Wheeling Jesuit University, Duquesne University, and the Iron Furnace Chapter of Trout Unlimited as well as watershed organizations throughout the Upper Ohio River Basin. Together, this team provides water quality research to the public, industry, agencies and organizations in easy-to-understand formats. The 3RQ is interested in providing data management tools to all volunteer water monitoring groups in the Ohio River Basin – please contact Melissa O’Neal ( for more information or visit

About the West Virginia Water Research Institute
WVWRI is a program of the National Research Center for Coal and Energy at West Virginia University. Founded in 1967, WVWRI is funded through federal, state and private sources. It serves as a statewide vehicle for performing research related to water issues. WVWRI is the premier water research center in West Virginia and, within selected fields, an international leader. Information about WVWRI may be found at

About the Colcom Foundation
The primary mission of the Colcom Foundation is to foster a sustainable environment to ensure quality of life for all Americans by addressing major causes and consequences of overpopulation and its adverse effects on natural resources. Regionally, the Foundation supports conservation, environmental projects and cultural assets. To learn more about the Colcom Foundation, go to

About the West Virginia University Foundation
The Colcom grant was made through the WVU Foundation in conjunction with A State of Minds: The Campaign for West Virginia’s University. The $1 billion fundraising effort runs through December 2017. For more information about the campaign, visit

WVU Researchers Unveil Ways to Reduce Environmental, Health Risks Associated with Shale Gas Extraction

Written by Tamara Vandivort on . Posted in News, Uncategorized

A new study by researchers at West Virginia University offers 10 recommendations for reducing the environmental and human health effects associated with horizontal drilling and the hydraulic fracturing process.

The recommendations address air, noise and light pollution; water management; and engineering flaws associated with horizontal gas well development and completion.

The study, titled Practical measures for reducing the risk of environmental contamination in shale energy production, is co-authored by Paul Ziemkiewicz, director of the West Virginia Water Research Institute John Quaranta, assistant professor of environmental engineering at the Benjamin M. Statler College of Engineering and Mineral Resources and Michael McCawley, interim chair of the Department of Occupational and Environmental Health Sciences at the School of Public Health.

Gas extraction from shale gas formations has been made possible by recent advances in horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing technology. In the eastern United States, the Marcellus Formation gas play is one of the nation’s major natural gas reserves and in West Virginia alone, nearly 3,000 horizontal wells have been developed since 2008.

While rapid adoption of these methods has led to a surge in natural gas production in the United States, it has also increased public concern about its environmental and human health effects.

“These facilities are often located within a few hundred meters of homes and farms, many of which are supplied by shallow water wells,” explains Ziemkiewicz. “As a result, many of the public’s concerns focus on air and groundwater pollution as well as light and noise associated with horizontal drilling and well completion. This study was initiated largely due to these public concerns.”

Ziemkiewicz, along with the other researchers, conducted a thorough review of environmental literature relevant to shale gas development and examined over 15 Marcellus shale facilities in northern West Virginia. The researchers provide the following recommendations as a result of their study:

• On-site containment – Well sites should have properly constructed containment structures in the event of a well blowout or massive fluid leak.

• Blowout preventers – All wells should include blowout preventers to bring any uncontrolled fluid release under control quickly.

• Wellbore integrity – All wells should be pressure tested before hydraulic fluid injection.

• Waste transportation plans –The planned disposal of liquid and solid waste should be a required and enforceable component of the well’s permit.

• Solid waste characterization – Additional studies on the solid wastes from hydraulic fracturing are needed in order to identify inorganic, organic and radioactive contaminants.

• Pits and impoundments – Better training is needed for regulatory and industry field inspectors to significantly improve the design and construction of storage pits and impoundments for liquid waste.

• Air monitors and sound meters – Installation of air monitors and sound meters at sensitive locations and connect to a central monitoring station.

• Noise reduction – Route traffic away from residences (where possible), use better wetting agents to reduce peak dust exposures, and stage traffic to reduce both diesel exhaust concentrations and noise.

• Characterization of the source of airborne contaminants – Further research is needed to identify the source of airborne contaminants found at horizontal drilling operations in order to effectively manage emissions.

• Performance based standards – Require placement of continuous monitoring instruments near sensitive locations for feedback and process control at drill sites for air, light and noise.

While the study identified several problem areas that need to be addressed, Quaranta is quick to point out that the industry and regulatory agencies are already incorporating some of their recommendations.

“We’re seeing more inspection guidelines, more training opportunities for regulatory personnel and industry field inspectors, and better emergency management protocols are being put in place,” said Quaranta. “Our recommendations are already having an impact.”

The study was also recently accepted for publication in the Royal Society of Chemistry’s Journal of Environmental Science: Processes and Impacts. The study is currently available online and will be included as part of the journal’s special collection on the topic of hydraulic fracturing for the upcoming July issue. Located in the United Kingdom, the Royal Society of Chemistry is the United Kingdom’s professional body for chemistry and the world’s leading chemistry community.

“Hydraulic fracturing is either currently being used or planned for use around the United States and in a number of other countries to increase the production of natural gas,” explains McCawley. “We wanted to share our findings with not only the people of West Virginia, but also within a broader community of scientists through this current publication with hopes that there will be further discussion of the ideas we present as well as possible suggestions for alternative strategies.”

In 2012, WVU introduced its “Mountains of Excellence” for strategic investment in research areas where potential for growth and substantial return on investment makes sense. One of the initial areas of focus is utilizing shale gas responsibly.

To read the study in its entirety and to see the full list of recommendations, visit

The West Virginia Water Research Institute has been in existence since 1967 and has served as a statewide vehicle for performing research related to water issues. The Institute is the premier water research center in West Virginia and, within selected fields, an international leader.



CONTACT: Glenn Waldron, WV Water Research Institute


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Fracking Waste Disposal Still A Question

Written by Glynis Board and Ashton Marra on . Posted in Media, Uncategorized

The House and Senate have spent weeks working on House Bill 4411 dealing with the disposal of hydraulic fracturing drill cuttings in land fills. Earlier in the session, the House of Delegates held a public hearing on the issue. But members could not agree on the terms of the bill and late Saturday evening it ended up in a conference committee.

The conference agreement came down to this: landfills who want to accept drill cuttings from fracking sites must apply for permits from the Department of Environmental Protection and the Public Service Commission. So far, seven are in the process of doing so. Those seven would be the only landfills allowed to apply for the permits for two years. They must put radon detectors at their front gates to test trucks, cannot mix the drill cuttings with municipal waste and must charge a $1 fee per ton they accept. The first $750 thousand collected will go toward a study on the waste due to the Joint Committee on Government and Finance next year.

That agreement, however, did not make it to the clerks’ desks in time to be put to a vote and the bill died, leaving no legislative restrictions on these cuttings and their disposal.