MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — The Monongahela River has recently been removed from the Environmental Protection Agency’s list of “impaired” rivers.
The river was originally included in the list of “impaired” rivers in 2010 due to high concentrations of sulfate. Although high concentrations of sulfate are not life-threatening, they could negatively influence public water supply, recreation and fishery within the area.
The West Virginia Water Institute, led by Paul Ziemkiewicz, began studying the river in 2009. Samples taken from the river helped the researchers determine exactly which type of sulfate was “impairing” the Monongahela River.
“The river looked good, but it was nonetheless impaired with high concentrations of sulfate,” Ziemkiewicz said.
Calcium sulfate is commonly present in underground mining water. This problem can occur when mining companies release pumped and treated water, which still contains calcium sulfate, into nearby rivers and streams with low water levels. Lower levels of water allow high concentrations of calcium sulfate to be present.
After this discovery, the research team was soon in contact with the local mining companies with hopes of finding an affordable, quick solution. The research team suggested to the mining companies that they hold off on pumping until the river’s water levels had increased. This would allow a decrease in the concentration of calcium sulfate to occur. All parties involved agreed this solution would help lower the high concentrations of calcium sulfate.
“We gave a clever solution to the companies. As soon as we took this model, the industry voluntarily implemented the solution…