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IUP students to test Beaver Run Reservoir for drilling problems

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Indiana University of Pennsylvania students will begin collecting samples today from the Beaver Run Reservoir to determine whether Marcellus shale deep-well drilling has affected the drinking water supply.

The Municipal Authority of Westmoreland County will pay IUP $55,000 this year to provide testing and analysis of the water to address concerns from customers that chemicals from existing gas wells around the 5,000-acre property could have infiltrated the water supply.

"This is entirely voluntary. It was always our intent to be open and transparent about the activities around the reservoir," authority Manager Chris Kerr said.

The authority, which conducts a water-testing program, has found no indication of contamination at the reservoir, Kerr said.

Kerr said the IUP testing project will give an independent look at the water supply.

Beaver Run, which sits in Washington and Bell townships, supplies water to about 150,000 residents.

Consol Energy holds leases to drill 30 Marcellus shale wells on authority property around the reservoir. The company has started its deep-well operations, in addition to 100 shallow gas wells it owns on the property.

Students from IUP's geography and geoscience departments will collect up to 40 water samples from the 1,300-acre reservoir, along with tributaries and streams on the property. The samples will be analyzed by chemistry students, and results will be posted on a public website, said Tracey Missien, interim director of IUP's Workforce Education and Economic Development Department.

"We'll be testing for a number of organic and inorganic materials and anything not normal. We'll be reporting those findings to the authority, and it will be up to them to determine the quality of the water," Missien said.

Samples will be collected four times a year. The deal with IUP could be extended, according to Jack Ashton, assistant manager for the authority.

Ashton and Kerr said they do not expect any findings to indicate that contaminants have infiltrated the water supply.

"If the tests find chemicals that can be found from the drilling activity, we'll address the findings with the drilling companies and the (state) Department of Environmental Protection," Ashton said.

Consol Energy officials could not be reached for comment.



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