3 Rivers Quest monitors water quality in rivers, tributaries and headwater streams that drain more than 25,000 square miles in five states. Local watershed groups may apply for grants up to $7000 to help collect samples. The four geographical regions and those partnering with West Virginia University in the project are the Monongahela (West Virginia Water Research Institute), Upper Ohio (Wheeling Jesuit University), Southern Allegheny (Duquesne University) and Northern Allegheny (Iron Furnace Chapter of Trout Unlimited).
Applications for grants are due Friday, March 15th to Duquesne University’s Center for Environmental Research and Education (CERE), which will monitor the lower Allegheny River. CERE’s director, Prof. John Stolz, said after dramatic gains in river water quality for many years, problems arose in 2009 because water treatment plants could only dilute, not remove, Marcellus Shale drilling fluids. A voluntary ban on using such plants for drilling wastewater led to decreased bromide levels in the Monongahela. “There are still issues on the Allegheny, which apparently has more brine treatment facilities—these are operations permitted to take wastewater from mining and drilling activities.”
Stolz said bromides cause problems in water treatment plants because they react with residual organics and chlorine to produce trihalomethanes (THMs) like chloroform and bromoform which are "not what you want to have in your water." The EPA monitors THM levels. The easiest fix for water authorities who have to reduce THM levels, according to Stolz, is chloramination, which is not as good a disinfectant as chlorine but allows compliance with EPA regulations.
In spite of active local watershed organizations, Stolz said public awareness of water quality issues should be greater.