Water quality sampling at Shenango Lake

Published March 11, 2014

As natural gas production in Marcellus and Utica shale region continues to grow, wells and pipelines are popping up all over the country, including ones adjacent to the Pittsburgh District’s reservoir projects. As a result, the Shenango Lake staff conducted a water quality survey on the streams and tributaries in the area.

On Dec. 11, 2013, the Shenango Lake staff including Manager John Kolodziejski and Rangers Jason Cote and Christina Barker escorted Pittsburgh District Biologists Rose Reilly, Carl Nim, and Autumn Rodden to the well and sampling sites.

“As expected, chloride and specific conductivity levels were higher downstream of the two completed wells, and turbidity levels were higher downstream of the Halcon well that is under construction on Pew Road -- they are moving a lot of dirt,” Reilly said. “However, chloride levels were also elevated in the unnamed Pymatuning Creek Arm of the lake downstream of the proposed well site north of Carlisle Road, which was surprising.”

The water samples were sent to the laboratory for further analysis.

To understand the potential impacts of this development on water quality before and after a shale gas well is put in, Pittsburgh District biologists wanted to deploy a continuous recording data logger downstream from a proposed shale gas well. Nim worked with Pittsburgh Engineer Warehouse and Repair Shop (PEWARS) staff to design and fabricate a platform and housing for the data logger, also known as the deployment assembly.


On Jan. 9, the Shenango Lake staff gained hands-on experience, when Nim reviewed the operation and data retrieval of a Solinst Data Logger. Then, he and the Shenango staff deployed the data logger in an unnamed Pymatuning Creek Arm of the lake, downstream of the proposed well site.


The rangers will collect the data on a monthly basis and e-mail it to the biologists.


The data logger collects data on temperature, water level, and conductivity. Conductivity data, if elevated, may indicate unusual amounts of metals and salts, both indicators of residual waste from the hydraulic fracturing process. Water quality surveys will then be conducted on an as-needed basis. By deploying the data logger prior to the developed well site, a baseline of data can be established, the district can see what happens with the water quality during the construction, completion, and operation of a shale gas well.


The partnership between Pittsburgh District biologists, field project staff, and PEWARS employees is an excellent example of teamwork and one of many efforts made towards sustaining Shenango Lake’s natural resources.