Indiana University of Pennsylvania faculty members and students will move into year six of testing water from the Beaver Run Reservoir as a result of an $85,000 contract with the Municipal Authority of Westmoreland County.

With this most recent contract, IUP has received a total of $390,000 since 2011 to test and monitor the reservoir's water quality.

Through the project, students in IUP's Geography and Regional Planning Department collect samples from the reservoir, and students in the Chemistry Department test the samples and compile the data. The data is posted on the Geography and Regional Planning website. Leading the project are IUP faculty members Brian Okey, Geography and Regional Planning, and Nathan McElroy, Chemistry. The partnership began in June 2011.

Members of the municipal authority initiated the testing project because of the drilling of horizontal Marcellus shale gas wells adjacent to the reservoir.

“Authority members wanted to engage an independent third party to conduct water sampling,” Okey said. “We were able to formulate a very comprehensive services proposal that successfully addressed the need of the municipal authority to be vigilant about monitoring and protecting the water source.”

Okey and McElroy noted that the project offers a valuable opportunity for the students, providing real-world work experiences outside of the classroom and a chance for students from different majors to work together.

The initial contract for the testing in 2011 was for $55,000. Since that time, the project and funding for the contract has increased, reflecting the demands of an expanded testing area. Funds are also being used to purchase new equipment for the testing project.

In their testing of samples since 2011, students and faculty members have not detected a threat to water the reservoir provides to customers in the service area, although they have observed silt from construction activities, Okey said. Results from the testing project are available online.

Beaver Run Reservoir holds 11 billion gallons of water and serves as a source of drinking water for about 150,000 people.