Distortion #5: Natural gas industry is the easy suspect for elevated levels of Total Dissolved Solids (TDS) in Monongahela River
The Perp’s Speculation
The elevated TDS situation in the Monongahela River was reported by local and national media outlets, including the New York Times. ProPublica seized the opportunity and went further in an October 4, 2009 article, predicting a far more threatening scenario in the future by suggesting the need for “protecting the state’s water supply against the comingonslaught of wastewater.”
The Facts Win
…even though the green machine doesn’t like them!
West Virginia Water Research Institute stepped in and actually conducted research about the presence of TDS in the Monongahela River. The key results from its study:
- Upper Mon acid mine drainage sources generate between 200,000 and 500,000 tons per year of TDS
- That amount accounts for between 20 to 100% of TDS in the Mon
- For much of the year the Mon can easily absorb that amount of loading while maintaining TDS below 500 mg/L
- None of the TDS constituents are cumulative or toxic at reasonable concentrations
An independent study (Evaluation of High TDS Concentrations in the Monongahela River, Tetra Tech NUS, Inc., Jan. 2009) debunks the notion that natural gas producers adversely affected the Mon River. A link to the full report can be found below. Here are some of the findings.
- Drought conditions were occurring in the Monongahela River basin in October and November 2008, which decreased the amount of water in the river for dilution and increased the concentrations of constituents such as TDS, sulfates, and chlorides in the river.
- “Analysis of samples taken over the October through December time period  indicate that the percent of chlorides in [total dissolved solids] did not change significantly after the exploration and production companies had stopped or significantly reduced disposal of flow back and produced water at the municipal treatment plants.”
- “The results of this study clearly indicate that discharges from natural gas exploration and production operations contributed only minimally to the total TDS concentrations and mass loadings in the Monongahela River during the time period the study was conducted. The main chemical component detected in the TDS concentrations and mass loadings was sulfate, which mostly likely is the result of mine drainage.”