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.
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 irst 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.
For results and more information click the link to the webpage. Beaver Run Reservoir