Beaver Run Project

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The Beaver Run Project is an ongoing water monitoring study of the Beaver Run Reservoir in Westmoreland County, Pennsylvania. It is a collaboration between Indiana University of Pennsylvania and the Municipal Authority of Westmoreland County (MAWC).

Project History

In June 2011, IUP faculty and students led by Dr. Brian Okey (Geography and Regional Planning) and Dr. 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 seven shale gas pads, each with multiple wells (currently 47), along the northwest, northeast, and west edges of the reservoir. In Summer 2015, the first Utica well was drilled and fracked on the Gaut Pad.

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) in the Marcellus 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 seventh year (2017-18). Below you will find information on individual pad site measurements, and field and lab results for surface stream site measurements and reservoir site measurements.

Project Information

Below are links to more detailed project information. Field Data contains information about measurements and notes taken on site by Dr. Okey and his students. Lab Data contains information about measurements and results taken by Dr. McElroy and his students at IUP. Methods and Protocols contains information about the ways in which we gather, measure, and analyze field and lab data from the project. Please note that all field and lab data represents water quality BEFORE treatment at the Sweeney Water Treatment Plant. None of this data represents the water quality provided to customers after treatment. For information about Beaver Run water quality AFTER treatment (i.e., what's coming out of your tap), see MAWC's Annual Water Quality Reports. The latest report (2016) can be found here.

Field Data

An IUP student collects field data at a Beaver Run Project site (Sep. 2015).

Water samples are gathered quarterly (every 3 months) from sites in and around Beaver Run Reservoir. Water is collected in a 1-liter bottle, labeled, and returned on IUP for further analysis. On-site measurements of each water sample include the date & time, temperature, pH, electrical conductivity, and a calculated total dissolved solids (TDS) reading.

In addition to water sampling, Dr. Okey and his students also circumnavigate each CONSOL well pad and take field readings (as above) of drainages and tributaries leading away from each pad site.

A final set of measurements involves a small set of continuous water monitoring devices (LevelLoggers) that are placed in selected streams adjacent to the reservoir. These devices collect information every 15 minutes while in place. Periodically, Dr. Okey and his students download this information onto a computer and view the results.

Field Data Main Page

Lab Data

Once water samples are returned to Weyandt Hall on the IUP campus, Dr. McElroy and his students prepare and store the samples for further lab analyses. Water is analyzed for total dissolved solids, alkalinity, several different inorganic salt species, and several metals.

Lab Data Main Page

Project Maps

We've provided some maps to show the location of the project site and the positions of where samples are gathered.

Project Maps Main Page

Project Media

View photos of various sites and activities related to the Project.

Project Media

Project Press

Links to webpages containing project and related information ...

Cover of IUP Magazine Spring 2013 issue highlighting the University's projects on energy-related issues.

Methods and Protocols

In order to help readers better understand the information and results presented here, we have included some brief articles on the methods and devices that are used to gather and analyze project data.

About This Website

This website is maintained by Dr. Nathan McElroy in the Department of Chemistry at Indiana University of Pennsylvania. This site is running on the Mediawiki platform, the same software used to run Wikipedia. All information on this site is created and owned by members of the Beaver Run Project unless otherwise noted, and is presented as completely and accurately as possible. Any erroneous information presented is assumed to be accidental.

For more information, comments, and questions about this site and its contents, please contact Dr. McElroy.

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