WATER RESOURCES

The quality of the water in streams is directly related to the quality of the land from which it came. Man's intensive land use activities of the 19th and 20th centuries have significantly degraded the water quality in the Chartiers Watershed.  It directly impacts the chemical, physical and biological processes that take place in streams.  The results are loss of habitat, loss of species diversity, loss of recreation opportunity, loss of economic potential, with a subsequent increase in flooding.

There are 79 miles, or 93% of the streams in the Lower Chartiers Watershed that are not in attainment with the state's Clean Streams Act, while 77% of the Upper Chartiers Watershed's streams are impaired. Sub-basins that are in attainment are shown in blue on the maps, above.  

The main pollution problems affecting water quality in the watershed are abandoned mine drainage, sewage, urban impacts and nutrient enrichment. Areas which are most affected by each pollution problem are shown on the maps of the lower and upper watershed above and summarized below.  

 

AMD, one of the major water quality problems in the project area is being remediated at the Scrubgrass Passive Treatment facility in Scott Township.

Abandoned Mine Drainage

ISSUE:  Abandoned mine drainage or AMD is one of the major water quality problems facing Chartiers Creek and its tributaries.  AMD is made up of numerous water quality parameters which varies seasonally and from discharge to discharge. The discharges can be from deep mines, surface mines or coal refuse piles. AMD can be either acidic or alkaline. Metals are associated with AMD, the most common being Iron (orange discharge),  Aluminum (white discharge),  and  Manganese (black discharge). Of the two hundred thirty three AMD sources in the watershed, two hundred twenty seven are located in the lower watershed, mapped below.   


AMD Map of the lower watershed

MANAGEMENT OPTION:  Strategically identify remediation projects for the watershed with overview and guidance from the encompassing Chartiers Creek Watershed organization. While there has been no successful implementation of a watershed-wide organization, successful characterization studies and remediation projects have been undertaken by local conservation groups.

Chartiers Nature Conservancy was awarded a grant to characterize and prioritize AMD discharges.  The Allegheny Land Trust was subsequently awarded funds to create a passive treatment system at their Wingfield Pines property.  The South Fayette Conservation Group was awarded a growing greener grant to restore Fishing Run and seal off the Maud Mine discharge. The Wanashee Conservancy is working on characterizing and remediating the discharges on Robinson Run. To date, over a million dollars have been awarded to fund remediation of the worst discharges in the Chartiers Watershed.  Once these have been completed, Chartiers Creek should run cleaner and the focus can shift to fixing the medium and lower priority discharges. 

 

Combined Sewer Overflow (CSO) in Crafton that empties directly into Chartiers Creek.

Sewage

ISSUE:  Sewage is composed of wastewater, feces and particulate matter. Sewage is a major pollution source within the Chartiers Watershed. This problem is due in part to old/poorly maintained sewer facilities and illegal connections to the sanitary sewer system (50% of these sources involve private property). Additionally, much of the infrastructure that involves the sewer system is located below groundwater levels. Thus raw sewage in some cases is coming in contact with groundwater which can cause groundwater contamination. 

In a conventional sewage treatment plant, sewage is transported to treatment facilities via an underground network of sewage pipelines from residences and businesses. Stormwater in most watershed municipalities has been combined with the sanitary sewers. This situation causes the combined sewers to overflow during wet weather events.

Sewage Map of the lower watershed

MANAGEMENT OPTION:  Due to its high financial and technical aspects, the sewage issue will continue to be resolved by local governmental officials and regulators. It is therefore encouraged that local citizens participate in public meetings and forums in order to be educated on the issues, activities, and implementation plans.  PADEP has an existing stormwater permitting program for certain storm sewer systems, industrial stormwater discharges and stormwater from construction sites. 

In 1999, the EPA Phase II Stormwater Regulations were published.  The regulations extend the stormwater permitting to sources that were not subject to permitting in the Phase I program.  The Phase II program expands the NPDES permit requirements to most municipal separate storm sewer systems in urbanized areas, provides for some programmatic changes to the Phase I industrial stormwater regulatory program, and requires permits for stormwater discharges from construction activities disturbing more than one acre. The MS4 program, which took effect in December, 2002, is changing how stormwater issues are dealt with and permitted within the watershed.  

 

Brush Run is one of the many Urban Impacted (or Habitat Modified) streams in the project area.  Increased flows scour the stream during a storm event, thus causing increased erosion and sedimentation.

Urban Impacted

ISSUE Streams that exhibit urban impacted or habitat modification problems are affected by high stream flows, turbidity, erosion and sedimentation, thermal pollution, and residual chemicals such as road salts, oils and solvents. These parameters alone or together impact the habitat, stream structure, and the environment for benthic organisms and fish.  

Urban Impacted pollution is primarily driven by high stream flows during storms. This type of stream flow is associated with areas of the watershed that have been experiencing high developmental pressures and lack stormwater management facilities. 

MANAGEMENT OPTION:  Strategically identify remediation projects for the project area with overview and guidance from the encompassing Chartiers Creek Watershed organization. 

The following assessment, planning, and implementation activities can also improve urban impacted areas: 

  • Fluvial GeoMorphology Assessment and Design

  • Pennsylvania's Stormwater Management (Planning) Program (PA Act 167)

  • Pennsylvania Handbook of Best Management Practices for Developing Areas

  • Local Community Zoning and Planning

Nutrient Enrichment

Associated with the lack of agricultural conservation practices, leaking septic systems and uncontrolled fertilizer application on fields, golf courses, parkland,  home gardens and lawns, nutrient enrichment is a major pollution source in the Chartiers watershed.