Water Resources Research Act Program

Details for Project ID 2011WV167B

WRI-143 Potential Chemical and Biological Impacts to White Day Creek Due to Gas Well Drilling

Institute: West Virginia
Year Established: 2011 Start Date: 2011-04-01 End Date: 2013-03-31
Total Federal Funds: $4,166 Total Non-Federal Funds: $8,332

Principal Investigators: Paul Ziemkiewicz, Ben Mack

Abstract: Whiteday Creek is a tributary of the Monongahela River in northern West Virginia. Water quality in this creek has been historically impacted by extractive industries, including coal mining and timbering. These impacts have sometimes caused high Total Dissolved Solids (TDS) concentrations in the watershed. A new source of potential TDS loads, shale gas drilling, is currently of concern within the watershed. Since shale gas drilling has not yet started within this watershed, Whiteday Creek will serve as a control stream to compare against streams that have already been impacted by shale gas drilling. This project will also determine the 7Q10 (the lowest stream flow for seven consecutive days that would be expected to occur once in ten years) of Whiteday Creek and how shale gas drilling activities, such as water withdrawls, could impact both the chemical and biological health of the stream during these low-flow periods. The West Virginia Water Research Institute will perform biological and chemical sampling at the mouth of Whiteday Creek. Chemistry samples will be collected two times per month and analyzed in the laboratory. The analytical chemistry program will include a suite of acid mine drainage parameters (acidity, alkalinity, pH, specific conductivity, sulfate, iron, manganese, aluminum, calcium, magnesium) and dissolved metals (aluminum, iron, manganese, calcium, sodium, chloride, bromide, and total suspended solids). Benthic macroinvertebrate samples will be collected twice per year (April and October) and the sample points will be scored using the West Virginia Stream Condition Index (WVSCI) score. Stream flow data will also be collected two times per month. Collected data will be analyzed and used to determine impacts on water quality from shale gas drilling. In year 2, the tasks begun in year 1 will continue to completion. Additional sampling locations may be added to the sampling regime dependent upon the results of the water sampling from the first year. If additional sites are added, samples will be collected at the same frequency and analyzed for the same parameters as the sites from year 1 of the project. If shale gas drilling has begun during the first year, additional sites could be also added near the discharge points of the drilling operations in order to determine the exact impact, if any, that drilling may have. These additional sites will capture a more complete representation of the water quality of Whiteday Creek, as well as potentially identifying previously unknown sources of contamination. This project has the support of the West Virginia Advisory Committee for Water Research and stakeholders including the U.S. Geological Survey, the White Day Creek Watershed Association, among others.