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3RQ partners share research in second session of Virtual Roundtable Series

In the second session of the Three River Quest (3RQ) Virtual Roundtable Series, presenters from Duquesne University, West Liberty University, and the West Virginia Water Research Institute (WVWRI) at West Virginia University shared research that they have been conducting within the three river basins. The event shed light on water chemistry trends and proposed where research could go to continue to improve water conditions.

Session Highlights:

  • Dr. Brady Porter, Dr. Beth Dakin, and graduate student Katie Stupar from Duquesne University presented their research studying water quality and fish populations of Crooked Creek, a tributary to the Allegheny River. The watershed has abandoned mine land (AML) and natural gas extraction wells, though most of the contaminates within Crooked Creek were found to be from acid mine drainage (AMD). Crooked Creek is defined as a warm water fishery (WWF) and has maintained the parameters that are beneficial for such. A few discrepancies were recorded, though natural phenomena could explain the water chemistry changes. Through electrofishing surveys of the watershed, several notable fish species were found to inhabit the watershed, including the Bluebreast Darter, Gilt Darter, Least Brooke Lamprey, and most exciting, the Brindled Madtom. The latter is a threatened fish within Pennsylvania and had not been recorded in Crooked Creek since 1905. 
  • Joseph Kingsbury, a graduate research assistant at WVWRI, discussed water chemistry trends found from ten years of routine monitoring data in the Monongahela River Basin. Specifically, he discussed the affect of several key management events, including the initiation of a voluntary discharge management plan among operators of AMD treatment plants within the basin. Essentially, this management plan modulates discharge load based on stream flows. Overall, 16 sites were studied, and the results showed that the management strategies are working to improve water chemistry. Chloride, bromide, sulfate, and total dissolved solids (TDS) concentrations all showed decreasing trends. Going forward, a project to improve stream discharge data is in the works to allow for more accurate analyses.
  • Dr. James Wood and undergraduate student Emily Huff from West Liberty University presented trends in specific conductance (SPC) and chloride levels within the Upper Ohio River and its tributaries near Wheeling, WV. They found that sites downstream from a mine had significantly increased conductivity, which can be directly attributed to these mining activities. Seasonal changes within conductance and chloride levels were also observed, with conductivity increasing during the summer and chloride increasing in the winter. Summer 2020 was a notably dry summer, and it was found that 58% of sites studied had a significant increase in the conductivity compared to the same sites in 2019. Chloride was highest in AMD impacted streams, and in the winter of 2020/2021, all of the sampling sites had a significant increase in the amount of chloride recorded compared to the previous year. Through this, a correlation between chloride and conductance was discovered within the summer.

The third and final session of the Virtual Roundtable Series, held on Thursday, February 3rd from 10-11 am, will highlight current projects of 3RQ members including Three Rivers Waterkeeper, Scrubgrass Creek Watershed Association, and IWLA: Harry Enstrom Chapter. Register for the final session here. Additionally, check out the WVWRI Virtual Seminar Series! The next session in this series, Revitalization through Remediation: Brownfield Tools that Drive Local Success, will take place on Thursday January 20th at 10 am.


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