The Beaver Run Project is an ongoing water monitoring study of the Beaver Run Reservoir in Westmoreland County.
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In June 2011, IUP faculty and students led by Brian Okey (Geography and Regional Planning) and Nathan McElroy (Chemistry) began monitoring surface water quality in and around Beaver Run Reservoir, a drinking water source (~1300-acre lake) managed by the Municipal Authority of Westmoreland County (MAWC). The reservoir lies within a forty-three-square-mile drainage area and serves approximately 130,000 people throughout northern Westmoreland County and small portions of neighboring Armstrong and Indiana Counties.
Marcellus shale gas wells adjacent to the reservoir, on land leased from MAWC, have generated public concerns and are one focus of the monitoring effort. Water sampling points have been established around drilling pad sites, on major tributaries of the reservoir, and at points in the reservoir itself. Currently, CONSOL Energy has developed eight shale gas pads, each with multiple wells, along the northwest, northeast, and west edges of the reservoir.
In addition to Marcellus shale development, the reservoir is exposed to abandoned/acid mine drainage (AMD), agricultural runoff, and other forms of land disturbance contributing to soil erosion. Also noteworthy are major highway corridors surrounding the reservoir, which are a potential source of hazardous spills from trucking activities and contributions to the salinity of water from winter road maintenance.
Hydraulic fracturing (fracking) began in March 2011, and the first sampling occurred in May 2011 before any other pad sites were active. The project is currently in its fourth year (2014).
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