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DEP Detects Total Dissolved Solids Over Standards In Monongahela River
The Department of Environmental Protection announced this week levels of total dissolved solids, or TDS, in the Monongahela River have again exceeded the water quality standard for taste and odor established by state and federal authorities.

“DEP is working closely with water suppliers to monitor TDS levels on the Monongahela,” said Environmental Protection Secretary John Hanger. “Already 12 monitors, funded in part by DEP, have been installed on the river and its tributaries. The resulting data will create an early warning system for water suppliers and industry and draw a sharper focus on the river’s water quality.”

Conductivity readings taken by the River Alert and Information Network, or RAIN, U.S. Geological Survey gages along the Monongahela and analytical data provided by Carnegie Mellon University, show that TDS levels began exceeding 500 parts per million (ppm) on September 22 near Crucible, Greene County.

Over the last two weeks, additional violations of the 500 ppm standard have been documented as far downstream as the borough of Elizabeth. The total river length currently affected is 46 miles. The highest TDS levels documented this fall were at Brownsville on September 29 where a level of 577 ppm was found.

Conductivity levels, which are an indicator for TDS, peaked on October 10 at 867 micro semens/centimeter, roughly equal to 600 ppm TDS, at Elizabeth.

Confirmatory water samples have been sent for lab analysis. As was done last year, lab results will be posted to the DEP website.

TDS is a measure of all elements dissolved in water and can include carbonates, chlorides, sulfates, nitrates, sodium, potassium, calcium and magnesium.

Sources of TDS can include sewage treatment plants, oil and gas drilling, stormwater runoff, metal mining, mining, abandoned mine drainage, meat packing plants, vegetable processing plants, grain milling plants, bakeries, beverage processing facilities, agricultural chemical manufacturing, petroleum refining, leather processing, primary metal industries, fabricated metal products, electric services, refuse systems, scrap and waste material industries.

The department, as well as the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, have established secondary maximum contaminant levels of 500 ppm of TDS for the Commonwealth’s drinking water and waterways.

Concerned residents may opt to use bottled water for drinking and preparing food until the levels of TDS decrease to normal levels.

Water treatment plants are not equipped to remove TDS from drinking water and therefore the increased levels may cause drinking water to taste salty.

Last fall, for the first time since data has been collected, TDS levels in more than 90 miles of the river exceeded 500 ppm with levels in excess of 900 ppm recorded.

With the assistance of DEP, the RAIN Network has installed water quality probes that will allow it to remotely monitor water quality, including conductivity, pH and the temperature of the water. The monitors have been installed and are logging data which is being downloaded by water suppliers and provided to DEP.

RAIN is working to connect the monitors electronically so that the data will be available real time. Once the connections are complete, RAIN plans to make the data available to the public online.

In April 2009 DEP released a proposed strategy for new discharges of high TDS wastewater to meet an effluent standard of 500 ppm by January 2011. These new standards were approved by the Environmental Quality Board on August 18, and will be available for public comment later this year.

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10/19/2009

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