DEP testing finds no radiation in Ten Mile Creek

December 17, 2015
View of Ten Mike Creek entering the Monongahela River off Route 88 near Fredericktown in Washington County - Jim McNutt/Observer-Reporter Order a Print

Testing performed at a dozen sites along Ten Mile Creek determined radioactive levels in the creek are within a normal range, state environmental regulators announced Thursday.

The state Department of Environmental Protection released its 10-page report analyzing water, vegetation and soil samples taken June 23 around the Clyde Mine treatment facility near Clarksville after a local environmental group raised questions over the radioactive levels in the creek.

“Ultimately, there were no surprises in the environmental samples we took,” DEP Executive Deputy Secretary for Programs John Stefanko said. “The radiological results were in line with expected background radiation readings. The nonradiological samples were consistent with what we regularly see in flooded underground mines in this region.”

All water samples were below the EPA’s drinking water limit of 5 picocuries per liter for Radium 226 and Radium 228, according to the report. The DEP also did not find any indication of accumulated radiation in the sediment, plants or aquatic life.

“They appear to be consistent with expected naturally occurring background values for similar media,” the report states. “The non-radiological results are also consistent with similar conditions associated with a flood mine in this area of Pennsylvania.”

One sludge sample taken from the treatment facility found elevated levels of Radium 228, but it was not high enough to raise public health or environmental concerns, the DEP said. However, the DEP said it will now collect and analyze more samples of the treatment facility sludge. The DEP also found normal levels of bromide and chloride.

“(DEP) concluded that sample results of the raw and treated mine water are consistent with typical mine drainage originating from a flood Pittsburgh seam underground coal mine in southwestern Pennsylvania,” the report states.

State Rep. Pam Snyder, D-Jefferson, said the report will hopefully put nearby residents at ease and she applauded DEP for continuing to test sludge from the treatment plant.

“No one is willing to let their guard down, but the results of both investigations are good news for the region and its water supplies,” Snyder said.

The DEP took three initial samples in April 2014 using “basic laboratory methodology” that showed naturally occurring radioactive materials above normal background levels. The more comprehensive testing this June had a wider spectrum range to detect radiation and other harmful minerals, the DEP said.

An independent organization, West Virginia Water Research Institute, also tested samples during the same period and released its finding in July that showed radioactive levels were barely present and well below federal regulations for safe drinking water.

The Izaak Walton League’s local chapter has taken issue with when the testing was performed by both groups. It claims the samples might not indicate a problem because heavy rain during the time caused the creek to swell. Ken Dufalla of the Izaak Walton League could not be reached for comment on the report.

However, the DEP noted in its report that stream flow at a measuring device five miles north of the sampling points was at near normal levels the day the samples were taken.

The samples were taken both upstream and downstream from the Clyde Mine treatment plant. They include North Fork and South Fork near Clarksville, confluence, the area around the mine’s treatment facility, an acid mine drainage runoff area, Pitt Gas Bridge, county park, boat marina and the Tri-County Joint Municipal Authority’s plant along the Monongahela River.

The entire report can be found on the DEP’s website at www.dep.pa.gov.

Download Tenmile Creek Sampling Summary

Mike Jones has been a news reporter since 2005, covering crime, state and municipal government, education and energy. In addition to working at the Observer-Reporter, he also has spent time at the Charleston (W.Va.) Daily Mail and Patch.com. He holds a journalism degree from West Virginia University.

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