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Susquehanna Commission Seeks Real-Time Monitoring Partners In Marcellus Shale Areas
The Susquehanna River Basin Commission is seeking partners to help start up a monitoring network to constantly record water quality conditions of smaller rivers and streams in areas where Marcellus Shale natural gas drilling is taking place in Pennsylvania and New York.

SRBC, state and federal water management officials and others would receive the real-time data electronically. The network would also help local public water suppliers, local watershed groups and communities stay informed.

“As the demand for water from smaller rivers and streams increases, particularly from the natural gas industry, so does the amount of wastewater that is generated,” said Paul Swartz, SRBC Executive Director. “It is important to monitor these smaller, remote waterways to verify whether or not they are being impacted by certain pollutants.”

Swartz said, “The proposed network would essentially be an early warning mechanism to help environmental protection officials respond more rapidly if streams are polluted. The Commission is well qualified to lead this effort as we have operated and maintained a real-time monitoring network on the mainstem Susquehanna River for about six years. The Commission also has extensive experience conducting various types of monitoring throughout the Susquehanna watershed.”

SRBC’s objectives for this proposed network are:
1. To establish a real-time monitoring network at areas of concern in the Susquehanna River Basin in order to provide monitoring data to resource agencies, the regulated community and the public and monitoring to allow timely response in the case of pollution incidents;
2. To establish baseline water quality conditions in targeted areas of the basin;
3. To verify whether or not the natural gas well industry and/or other activities with the potential to cause pollution incidents are causing adverse impacts on local water quality;
4. To reduce the cost of data collection through the utilization of advanced technologies; to form collaborative partnerships to improve monitoring technology and provide educational opportunities;
5. To enhance protection for water supplies through source water monitoring; and
6. To be responsive to public concerns.

SRBC’s proposal calls for 30 monitoring stations in the targeted regions where drilling in the Marcellus shale for natural gas is most active. In these targeted, remote areas, the terrain is mostly forested and lacks easy access for routine monitoring. This network would provide constant monitoring through instruments sensitive enough to detect subtle changes in water quality.

Each of the 30 monitoring stations would be equipped with a datasonde and data platform powered by a solar panel. The equipment would continuously monitor water temperature, pH, dissolved oxygen, conductance (ability to conduct electricity) and turbidity (water clarity). The water depth also would be recorded to establish a relationship with stream flows.

“While the Commission has confidence in the value and benefits of this remote monitoring network, we can not do it alone; nor do we assume our proposal is final at this point. We welcome partners from all sectors, private and public, for their financial support and for their feedback and involvement.”

SRBC has been reaching out to and engaging governmental and non-governmental organizations in this effort through meetings and other forms of communication.

For more information on SRBC’s proposed water quality monitoring network, go to SRBC’s website. This webpage contains a project information sheet, power point presentations and other information.

11/9/2009

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