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, located in western Pennsylvania. The project is a collaboration between Indiana University of Pennsylvania (IUP) and the Municipal Authority of Westmoreland County (MAWC).

As of March 2018, our project website has been completely reformatted/rebuilt for (we hope) better organization and dissemination of project results. All field and lab results are current. For more information, see Updates.

About the Project

Dr. Brian Okey gathers field data from a project tributary.

In May 2011, IUP faculty Dr. Brian Okey (Geography & Regional Planning) and Dr. Nathan McElroy (Chemistry) began monitoring surface water quality in and around the Beaver Run Reservoir. The reservoir and adjacent property is owned and maintained by the Municipal Authority of Westmoreland County (MAWC). The ~1300-acre reservoir lies within a "43-square-mile drainage area and serves approximately 130,000 people throughout northern Westmoreland County and small portions of neighboring Armstrong and Indiana counties."[1]

For decades, conventional (vertical) natural gas wells have been installed by various companies who lease the land adjacent to the reservoir, and MAWC has been collecting water quality data parameters since 1978. In 2010, CONSOL Energy notified MAWC that they would begin unconventional (horizontal) drilling into the Marcellus Shale in 2011 at several sites adjacent to the reservoir. This announcement generated public concerns about the effect of gas drilling operations might have on water quality, and MAWC approached IUP about an expanded water monitoring project. Hydraulic fracturing ('fracing' or 'fracking') of the first Marcellus well began in March 2011, and the first field measurements and water sampling for the Project occurred in May 2011. Water sampling points for field and lab analyses were established around drilling pad sites, on major tributaries to the reservoir, and within the reservoir itself. Since 2011, CONSOL Energy has established 47 Marcellus gas wells on seven pad sites located on the northeastern, northwestern, and western edges of the reservoir. In 2015, the first Utica Shale gas well was installed on the Gaut Pad, and two more were installed in Fall 2017 at the Aikens Pad. In addition to Marcellus and Utica Shale gas wells, the reservoir and it tributaries are exposed to abandoned mine drainage (AMD), agricultural runoff, and other forms of land disturbances that may contribute to soil erosion. The overall drainage area includes several municipalities and major roadways, which also contribute to possible degradation of water quality via septic systems, illegal dumping, accidental spills, and elevated salt concentrations from winter maintenance.

In June of 2014, IUP faculty and students led by Dr. John Bradshaw (Physics) began air quality measurements in the vicinity of four fracking pads around Beaver Run Reservoir. Additionally, they monitor air quality near the natural gas compressor station. In Fall 2016, MAWC and IUP began working with Environmental Service Laboratories (ESL) in Indiana,PA to collect and analyze samples for volatile and semi-volatile organic compounds. In Fall 2017, MAWC began working with ESL to collect and analyze samples for radionuclides, such as gross alpha and beta emitters, radium 226, and radium 228.

The Beaver Run Project is currently in its seventh year (2017-18). On this website, we provide related project information and results of all field measurements and lab analyses. Currently, there are 246 sampling reports for 165 different project site locations. Please note that all field and lab data represents water quality BEFORE treatment at the Sweeney Water Treatment Plant. None of these 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.

Project Information

Dr. Nathan McElroy, Amy Rydeen, and Pearl Kwantwi-Barima analyzing water samples for metals at IUP.[2]

Every effort has been made to provide the most accurate and up-to-date information related to the Project. As an ever-changing wiki environment, however, one may occasionally find a page or link that is under-developed or still "under construction". Additionally, lab results of water analyses are not updated until they have been analyzed and reviewed by project personnel, which takes time. Below are descriptions of and links to the main sections of the project information, with further navigation/exploration opportunities.

  • Sampling Sites: This page provides an overview of the locations where field measurements and water samples are gathered.
  • Quarterly Field and Lab Reports: The main page linking to all quarterly field and lab reports for pad site locations and bottle collection sites.
  • Site Summary Reports: The main page linking to all field and/or lab data associated with a particular sampling location.
  • Project Maps: A small collection of project-related maps.
  • Project Methods & Protocols: Descriptions of and links to further information about how project data is gathered and analyzed.
  • Project Media: The main organization page for all project-related media, including photographs, press releases, and newspaper articles.

About this Website

This website uses MediaWiki (version 1.30.0), a free open source wiki package written in PHP and used on Wikipedia. The site was created and is maintained by Dr. Nathan McElroy in the Department of Chemistry at Indiana University of Pennsylvania (IUP). All information herein is created and owned by the Beaver Run Project unless otherwise noted, and is presented as completely and accurately as possible. Any erroneous information is assumed to be accidental. For additional information, error reporting, or questions regarding the contents of this wiki, please contact Dr. McElroy. See Updates for a list of major updates and changes to the site.

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