Water Monitoring Analysis
Upon review of the water sample data, water quality in Dunkard Creek upstream of Taylortown can be characterized as good and is meeting its designated uses as a warm water fishery. Although there are pollution contributions from malfunctioning on-lot sewage systems and agricultural runoff (sediment) throughout the watershed, these contributions do not impact the stream to the point of impairment. Aquatic studies conducted by the PADEP along with studies and recommendations by the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission (PAFBC) confirm the good water quality results, upstream of Taylortown.
The lower 6.2 miles of Dunkard Creek (downstream of Taylortown) is severely impacted by acid mine drainage according to PAFBC data provided by their regional office in Somerset, PA. The water quality data collected by the PADEP and Waynesburg College below Taylortown, at first glance, does not indicate a significant water quality problem due to acid mine drainage. Closer examination of the water quality data of the five worst deep mine discharges quickly defines the mine water pollution problem in the lower 6.2 miles of Dunkard Creek. Figure 8 on the following page shows the locations of the 8 major acid mine drainage discharges located in the watershed. According to the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission, a large fish kill was suffered in September of 1998 at the Taylortown Bridge. Approximately 1,752 fish were found dead on a 2 mile stretch starting at the Taylortown bridge. It is suspected that a large acid mine drainage discharge located above this area is to blame.
The volume of iron, aluminum and acidity produced at these discharges are shown in tons per year in Table 7. The 530 tons of acidity that emanates from these discharges is assimilated by the highly alkaline water in Dunkard Creek. The neutralization of the acid causes the pH of the mine water to rise. This increase in pH allows the iron (94 tons/year) and aluminum (55 tons/year) to precipitate on the stream bottom. It is this precipitation of the iron and aluminum on the stream bottom that makes Dunkard Creek a nearly sterile stream from Taylortown to its mouth on the Monongahela River.
Water quality changes dramatically in the lower 6.2 miles of Dunkard Creek due to the impacts of acid mine drainage. The photo above is a popular fishing hole known as Pigeon Hole located approximately 3 miles upstream of Taylortown, PA. Below is a photo of Dunkard Creek located near Bobtown, PA.
Figure 8 AMD Map
TABLE 7. Dunkard Creek mine drainage pollutant loading, Taylortown to Mouth.
The aquatic study done by the PADEP in October and November of 1998 documents the impact of the precipitated metals on the aquatic population of this section of Dunkard Creek. The study indicates that station 7, which is located downstream of Taylortown between Bobtown and Poland Mines, is completely impaired by mine drainage. There were no aquatic invertebrates nor fish found alive at this station. With no ability to adhere to the rocks in the stream, caused by the coating of iron and aluminum, there would be no way for benthic organisms to survive. Consequently, very few fish would be able to survive with no insects on which to feed.
The following describes each parameter analyzed and gives a general analysis of the parameters effect on Dunkard Creek.
The pH is a numerical measure of acidity, or hydrogen ion activity (an ion is an electrically charged chemical species) used to express acidity or alkalinity; neutral is pH 7.0, values below 7.0 are acid, and above 7.0 are alkaline. Table 8 shows the pH effects on aquatic life.
TABLE 8. pH impacts on aquatic life.
pH Impact
6.5 - 7.0 Generally harmless, although may cause delayed spawning in some fish.
6.0 - 6.5 Interferes with spawning and hatching of eggs for some fish.
5.0 - 6.0 May be lethal to eggs and larvae of sensitive fish species, blue green algae may predominate.
4.5 - 5.0 Prohibits reproduction in salmonids; blackflies, mayflies, and stoneflies may be absent.
4.5 Fish usually not found although some hardy species may survive for short periods. Dense mats of algae and chlorophyll-containing flagellates may color stream beds green. Stream bed animals may be absent.
The Chapter 93 water quality standards for pH of streams is from 6.0 to 9.0 inclusive. All pH readings are within these standards. Despite several acid mine discharges with a pH as low as 2.7, the average pH for the main stem of Dunkard Creek ranges from 6.7 to 7.9. This shows the amazing buffer capacity of Dunkard Creek. The average range for the tributaries is from 6.8 to 8.4.
The alkalinity of water is a measure of its acid neutralizing capacity. The primary importance of alkalinity is the buffer it imparts to water; that is, the ability of the water to resist changes in pH with the addition of acids or bases.
Alkalinity is due primarily to salts of weak acids such as carbonates, silicates and phosphates. A few naturally occurring organic acids (i.e. humic) may also contribute alkalinity to waters. In most natural waters and wastewaters, the bicarbonate-carbonate species, along with the hydroxyl ions, are the major components of alkalinity. Because the composition of natural waters reflects the mineralogy of surrounding soils, the type of minerals found in an area influence alkalinity. The alkalinity of natural waters varies widely with locality, being dependent on a number of factors such as the amount of carbonate-bearing minerals in the soil.
Alkalinity is usually expressed in mg/l as CaCO3; that is, the equivalent concentration of CaCO3 which will give the same alkalinity as the sample. The Chapter 93 water quality standards for alkalinity of streams is a minimum 20 mg/l as CaCO3, except where natural conditions are less. The alkalinity has not been below this standard for any of the sampling points. The average alkalinity for the main stem ranges from 44 mg/l at DC-1 to 145 mg/l at WV-4. The average alkalinity for the tributaries ranges from 52.5 mg/l at Garrison Fork to 339.3 mg/l at Meadow Run.
The hardness is a characteristic of water caused by various salts, calcium, magnesium and iron. It is a term used to describe the total amount of divalent cations in a water sample capable of reacting with soaps to form insoluble scums and also capable of forming scale by precipitation of inorganic salts (i.e. CaCo3) inside water pipes. Waters can be broadly categorized as:
TABLE 9. Water hardness parameters
Degree of Hardness
Hardness mg/l as CaCO3
Moderately Hard
Very Hard
According to the data, most of Dunkard Creek and its tributaries are soft to moderately hard. It appears the water gets harder the further downstream on the main- stem of Dunkard Creek you go. The lower end of Dunkard from the state line to the mouth is hard to very hard. Mostly all of the tributaries appear to fall within the soft to moderately hard category with the exception of Meadow Run which appears to be very hard and Miracle Run which appears to be hard.
Dissolved Solids, Total Suspended Solids
A large part of the pollutant load in streams may be in the solid form. Total suspended solids are small particles of solid pollutants in sewage that contribute to turbidity and that resist separation by conventional means.
Dissolved solids are the total amount of dissolved material organic or inorganic, contained in water or wastes. Excessive dissolved solids make water unpalatable for drinking and unsuitable for industrial uses. The Chapter 93 water quality standard for dissolved solids in a stream for aquatic life is a maximum of 1,500 mg/l. For water supply use it is 500 mg/l as a monthly average value; maximum 750 mg/l. All sample points fall within these parameters with the exception of Meadow Run which averages 277 mg/l.
Total solids are all matter that remains after evaporation at 103 - 105 degrees Celsius. This includes suspended plus dissolved solids.
TABLE 10. Typical Concentrations of Total Solids
Potable Water 20 - 1000 mg/l )typical 500 mg/l)
Wastewaters 350 - 3000 mg/l
Sludges up to 100,000 mg/l and higher
Specific Conductivity
Specific conductance is a measure of the ability of water to conduct an electrical current. It is expressed in micromhos per centimeter at 25 degrees Celsius. Specific conductance is related to the type and concentration of ions in solution and can be used for approximating the dissolved solids concentration of the water. Commonly, the concentration of dissolved solids (in milligrams per liter) is about 65 percent of the specific conductance (in micromhos). This relation is not constant from stream to stream, and it may vary in the same source with changes in the composition of the water.
According to the data, the average specific conductivity rises the further downstream you go. The highest average specific conductivity on the main stem of Dunkard Creek occurs at WV-1 which averages 1079 umhos. Meadow Run had the highest average specific conductivity of the tributaries at 3019 umhos.
Sulfates and Iron
Coal bearing minerals are typically high in iron sulfide ores, pyrite and marcasite (two different crystalline forms of FeS2). During mining, pyritic materials are exposed to air and water and are oxidized to ferric iron, sulfate and acidity. The net result is that ferric hydroxide is produced which causes a reddish-brown discoloration of the water and tends to smother the stream bottom with a blanket of precipitated iron.
Notice the reddish-brown discolored water emanating from an acid mine discharge near Taylortown, PA. This discoloration known as ferric hydroxide, smothers the stream bottom with precipitated iron.
The Chapter 93 water quality standards for sulfates in streams is a maximum of 250 mg/l for water supply purposes. There is no standard for aquatic life listed. Sulfates appear to increase as you go further downstream of the main stem of Dunkard Creek. Most of Dunkard Creek falls under the 250 mg/l maximum until you hit WV-1. From this point to the mouth, the average sulfates range from 268 mg/l to 362 mg/l. This is probably due to the extensive mining in this section of the watershed. All the tributaries fall under the 250 mg/l maximum with the exception of Meadow Run which averages 991 mg/l. This tributary has a history of mining also.
For iron, the daily average is 1.5 mg/l as total iron; maximum 0.3 mg/l as dissolved iron. These numbers are for both aquatic life and water supply. All points were sampled for total iron. All points on the main stem as well as the tributaries fall below the 1.5 mg/l. It is important to note that we have monthly averages, not daily averages. May was the only month that showed nearly all samples on the main stem as well as Roberts Run between 1.97 mg/l and 3.04 mg/l.
Heavy Metals- Manganese, Copper, Lead, Nickel, Zinc, Aluminum
For many heavy metals such as lead, there is no known biological need. In fact they can be quite toxic. Even excessive levels of nutritionally necessary metals such as copper and zinc can be harmful.
To be biologically active, a metallic element must, in general, be in a soluble form. Thus, processes which govern the partitioning of the metal between the solid and solution phases are extremely important in determining adverse environmental effects. Three extremely important processes governing the toxicity and fate of heavy metals are precipitation, adsorption, and reactions with organic matter.
Precipitation is of utmost importance in determining the toxicity of metals to aquatic biota. Fortunately, most metals are maintained at low levels in aquatic systems by the formation of insoluble oxides, hydroxides, carbonates, and the like. Metal solubility increases with decreasing pH for most metals of significance in aquatic systems. Zinc, Copper and Aluminum are usually found at lethal or near-lethal levels in streams affected by acid mine drainage.
Adsorption with solid particles also reduces soluble metal levels. The pH dependent behavior of adsorption is similar to participates: increasing adsorption, as the system becomes more alkaline.
This photo shows the white, milky aluminum being discharged from an acid mine discharge located near Bobtown, PA.
Reactions with organic matter can both increase and decrease metal availability. If the organic matter is water insoluble like humic materials, complexation will tend to immobilize the metals. On the other hand, formation of soluble metal complexes may increase the mobility and bioaccumulation potential of the heavy metals.
Chapter 93 only lists water quality standards for aluminum and manganese. The maximum for aluminum is 0.1 of the 96 hour LC50 for representative important species as determined through substantial available literature data or bioassay tests tailored to the ambient quality of the receiving waters. LC50 is the concentration of a toxicant in water that kills half of a test population in a specified time period (usually 48 or 96 hours). It is used as an index of acute toxicity; common test organisms include bluegill, fathead minnows, and daphnia. The average aluminum concentration for the main stem ranges from 0.22 mg/l to 0.98 mg/l, the highest occurring in the lower watershed. The tributaries ranged from 0.14 mg/l to 1.2 mg/l found on Shannon Run.
The water quality standard for manganese is a maximum of 1.0 mg/l for water supply uses. The average for the main stem of Dunkard Creek ranges from 0.04 mg/l to 0.25 mg/l. The highest averages appear to be in the lower end of the watershed. The tributaries range anywhere from 0.02 mg/l to 0.14 mg/l.
Ammonia, Phosphorus, Nitrate, Nitrite, and Carbon
Carbon, nitrogen and phosphorus are the three chief nutrients present in natural water. Large amounts of these nutrients are produced by sewage, certain industrial wastes, and drainage from fertilized lands. Biological waste treatment processes do not remove the phosphorus and nitrogen to any substantial extent. In fact, they convert the organic forms of these substances into mineral form, making them more usable by plant life. The problem starts when an excess of these nutrients over-stimulates the growth of water plants which cause unsightly conditions, interfere with treatment processes, and cause unpleasant and disagreeable tastes and odors in water.
Nitrate is an important plant nutrient and type of inorganic fertilizer. It is the most highly oxidized phase in the nitrogen cycle. In water the major sources of nitrates are septic systems, animal feed lots, agricultural fertilizers, manured fields, industrial waste waters, sanitary landfills, and garbage dumps.
Nitrate is the primary source of nitrogen for plants; it is a nutrient they cannot live without. Extensive farming can rob the soil of its natural nitrogen sources, so farmers often add nitrate fertilizers. Properly managed, nitrogen does not endanger health and can increase crop production. However, when more nitrogen is added to the soil than the plants can use, excess nitrate can leach into groundwater supplies and contaminate wells. Because nitrate is converted to a very toxic substance (nitrite) in the digestive systems of human infants and some livestock, nitrate-contaminated water is a serious problem.
The Chapter 93 water quality standards for nitrite plus nitrate is a maximum of 10 mg/l as nitrogen for water supply uses. It appears the nitrate and nitrite levels rose sharply as Dunkard dipped down into West Virginia and then dropped as it entered back into Pennsylvania. The ammonia levels appear to do the same thing but the sharp rise appears earlier at DC-4. The Nitrite levels in the West Virginia tributaries tower over the Pennsylvania tributaries. Days Run has a considerable high Ammonia level at 2.63 mg/l as compared to the other tributaries.
The Chapter 93 water quality standards for chloride in streams is a maximum of 250 mg/l for water supply uses. All sample points on the main stem as well as the tributaries falls below these standards. Meadow Run comes the closest with an average of 198 mg/l.
Biochemical Oxygen Demand (BOD)
BOD is a measure of the amount of oxygen consumed in the biological processes that break down organic matter in water. Large amounts of organic waste use up large amounts of dissolved oxygen, thus the greater the degree of pollution the greater the BOD.
TABLE 11. Typical Values of BOD
System BOD (mg/l)
Streams Draining Virgin Territory  
---dry season 0.5 - 1.0
---During high runoff 1.0 - 3.0
Untreated Domestic Wastewater

100-400 (200 typical)

Domestic Wastewater Effluents 10-30
Septage 1500-20,000
Landfill Leachate 100-15,000
Whole Milk 100,000
The average BOD for the main stem of Dunkard Creek averages from 0.98 mg/l to 1.88 mg/l, the highest being DC-8. The average BOD for the tributaries ranges from 0.63 mg/l to 2.55 mg/l on Jakes Run.
Fecal Coliform
Fecal coliform bacteria is a group of organisms common to the intestinal tracts of man and of animals. The presence of fecal coliform bacteria in water is an indicator of potentially dangerous bacterial contamination. Fecal coliform is the standard test organism used in many laboratories testing treated sewage, untreated public water supplies, and such primary contact waters as swimming areas.
During the swimming season (May 1 through September 30), according to the Chapter 93 water quality standards, the maximum fecal coliform level shall be a geometric mean of 200 coliform per 100 milliliters (ml) based on five consecutive samples, each sample collected on different days. For the remainder of the year, the maximum fecal coliform level shall be a geometric mean of 2,000 coliform per 100 milliliters (ml) based on five consecutive samples collected on different days.
For water supply uses there should not be more than 5,000 coliform per 100 milliliters as a monthly geometric mean. The average fecal coliform for the main stem ranges from 20/100 ml to 1873/100 ml at WV-8. The numbers appear to drop in the lower portion of the watershed. The average for the tributaries ranges from 290/100 ml to a high of 13,663/100 ml on Miracle Run.