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Westmoreland municipal authority signs $100K deal with IUP for water quality inspections

| Monday, June 17, 2013, 12:01 a.m.

Testing of drinking water at Beaver Run Reservoir will continue under an agreement reached last week between the Municipal Authority of Westmoreland County and Indiana University of Pennsylvania.

The authority signed a $100,000 deal with the college to have a third party inspect water quality at the 5,000-acre reservoir where dozens of Marcellus shale natural gas wells are located.

The authority provides water to more than 120,000 customers in five counties.

Water for the authority's system comes from the reservoir — located in Washington, Bell and Salem townships in the northern end of Westmoreland County — and the Youghiogheny River in the southern portion of Westmoreland County.

According to the authority's website, Beaver Run holds 11 billion gallons of water.

For the last three years, students from IUP's geography and geoscience departments have collected water samples from the 1,300-acre reservoir, its tributaries and streams and drainage areas near the five pads erected to drill for natural gas.

Samples have been analyzed by chemistry students, and results are posted on an IUP website.

“It's a third-party review, and it's good we can reassure the public the water quality has not been affected by the drilling activity,” authority Manager Chris Kerr said.

The authority paid $55,000 to IUP to analyze the water quality in 2011. It paid $75,000 last year.

The increased cost results from the growing number of Marcellus shale wells being drilled by Consol Energy on the property. There are 37 active wells, and 13 more are expected to be online later this year.

“They (IUP) provide a blanket of the area,” assistant manager Jack Ashton said.

Ashton said the reviews have found no issues with the water quality at Beaver Run.

The first year of the inspections discovered silt from construction activities had entered the reservoir, but those findings did not affect the water quality, according to IUP reports.

Testing is performed quarterly, and the results dating back to 2011 are available on the school's website.

“Everything was good,” Kerr said.

Officials with IUP's testing program could not be reached for comment.

Rich Cholodofsky is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-830-6293 or rcholodofsky@tribweb.com.

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