Indiana University of Pennsylvania faculty members and students will continue another year of water testing at the Beaver Run Reservoir through a contract with the Municipal Authority of Westmoreland County. The project began in June 2011.
The Authority board approved a $91,000 contract for the services with IUP at its board meeting August 12. With this recent contract, IUP has received more than $875,000 since 2011 to test and monitor the surface water quality at the reservoir and surrounding watershed areas.
A separate contract with IUP to conduct air emission tests at the reservoir is expected to be approved this fall by the Authority. IUP has done air quality testing in the area since July 2015, led by IUP physics faculty member John Bradshaw. He and his students have monitored methane levels in the air near four gas production sites, concentrations of compressor gases near the compressor station, and background concentrations in nearby areas. Students from four academic departments have worked on these projects over the past nine years. Students in IUP’s Department of Geography and Regional Planning collect field data and water samples from the reservoir and surrounding areas. Students in the Madia Department of Chemistry test the samples and analyze the data. IUP faculty members Nate McElroy (chemistry) and Brian Okey (geography and regional planning) lead the project.
“Since 2011, more than 75 IUP undergraduate and graduate students from several departments have worked on this project in the field and in the lab, gaining invaluable practical hands-on experience of an important issue in western Pennsylvania,” McElroy said.
Members of the Municipal Authority of Westmoreland County initiated the project because of unconventional (horizontal) drilling of Marcellus and some Utica shale gas wells adjacent to the reservoir. The Beaver Run Reservoir holds 11 billion gallons of water and serves more than 130,000 customers in the region. All project field and lab data can be found on the IUP Beaver Run project website.
The Beaver Run Reservoir is a drinking water source managed by the Municipal Authority of Westmoreland County. The 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.