recreational water

Rebirth of the Cheat River

by Jon Capacasa

Photo credit: Kent Mason, Friends of the Cheat.

Photo credit: Kent Mason, Friends of the Cheat

I vividly remember my experience rafting the Cheat River in West Virginia.  It was in the early ‘80s and I recall a beautiful river valley with steep slopes, lushly forested hillsides, and the tremendous rush of water propelling us along.

Once we got started, there was no turning back.  A train track along the river beckoned as the river ran wilder and wilder, and a spill into the cold, churning waters came as a bracing, not to mention harrowing wake-up call.

Along the way, I also saw some of the impact to the river of pollution from old abandoned mines, such as discolored rocks with an orange coating reflecting acid mine drainage waters coming to the surface and oxidizing in the open air.

And this was even before the mid-‘90s when on two separate occasions, polluted water from an illegally-sealed underground mine blew out a hillside – pouring pollution into Muddy Creek and on into the Cheat, causing catastrophic harm not only to the river, but also to local recreation and the businesses that depended upon it.

Though these were difficult days for the river, thanks to years of Clean Water Act funding and the cleanup efforts of a local non-profit group, the state and others, the raging waters of the Cheat today represent a major success story.  The orange scour still remains in spots, but the mainstem of the river has been restored – serving once again as a haven for whitewater rafting and smallmouth bass fishing.

While work treating acid mine drainage from the river’s feeder streams continues, the restoration has been so successful that it’s getting harder for local roads to accommodate all the traffic from outdoor enthusiasts hoping to experience the Cheat’s wild wonders.

Since 2000, Cheat River restoration efforts have received more than $5.1 million in support, including $2.6 million in funding from EPA’s Clean Water Act Section 319 nonpoint source program through the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection, and additional funding from the U.S. Office of Surface Mining and the state. These funds have largely been used by the non-profit Friends of the Cheat for “passive treatment projects” that use limestone beds and other techniques to neutralize acidity and reduce metals.

State statistics show that between 2000 and 2013, restoration work reduced acid mine drainage-related pollution to the Cheat watershed by more than 1.7 million pounds.  In 2014, the Conservation Fund and the Nature Conservancy purchased 3,836 acres of the Cheat River Canyon for preservation and public recreation.

Today, the Cheat plays host to bass fishing tournaments, as well as a robust perch population and even pollution-sensitive walleye – an amazing development considering the condition of the river just two decades ago.

Tell us about your experiences on the Cheat River.

 

About the author: Jon Capacasa is the Director of the Water Protection Division in EPA’s Mid-Atlantic Region.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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Research Recap: This Week in EPA Science

By Kacey Fitzpatrick

Research recap graphic identifier, a microscope with the words "research recap" around it in a circleA good amount of my college career was spent on the top floor of the library, cramming for exams the next day. Even after graduating, I have yet to drop the habit. The night before my first day at EPA, I was frantically trying to catch up on all the research that the Agency had been doing so that I could follow along the next day.

A month later, I’m still a little lost during meetings – there is just that much going on here!

To help keep up—and break a bad habit—I’ve decided to do a quick, weekly review. And as part of the science communication team, I figured it would be a good thing to share what I’ve learned. Starting today, I’ll be posting a quick rundown most Fridays of some of the research that’s been reported by EPA and others over the week.

This is the first post in a new, weekly segment we are calling “Research Recap.”

And if you have any comments or questions about what I share or about the week’s events, please submit them below in the comments section. My colleagues and I will contact our scientists and get back to you as soon as we can with answers. And don’t worry, I promise there won’t be any pop quizzes!

 

This week’s Research Recap:

 

  • Careers in Environmental Health Science

Oregon State University’s superfund research program created the video “Careers in Environmental Health” to introduce students to various careers in science. Scientists from both the university and EPA were interviewed about their job, as well as how they ended up becoming a scientist.

Watch the videos.
Meet more EPA researchers at work.

 

  • Colorado State University Hosts Cookstove Testing Marathon

Colorado State University hosted a laboratory testing campaign as part of a $1.5 million study on the air quality, climate and health effects of cookstove smoke to help determine to what extent the stoves used by 3 billion people worldwide for heating, lighting and cooking are contributing to climate change and global air quality.

Read more.

 

  • Studying Stream Restoration

EPA scientists set out to evaluate how well “out-of-stream” restoration actions (those actions that take place in the watershed as opposed to within streams) work. These approaches are important because efforts that have focused solely on habitat restoration within streams have had limited success.

Read more.

 

  • EPA Report Shows Progress in Reducing Urban Air Toxics Across the United States

Based largely on Agency clean air research, EPA released the Second Integrated Urban Air Toxics Report to Congress—the final of two reports required under the Clean Air Act to inform Congress of progress in reducing public health risks from urban air toxics. The report shows the substantial progress that has been made to reduce air toxics across the country since the Clean Air Act Amendments of 1990.

Read more.

 

  • From Lake to Classroom: EPA workshop on Lake Erie Provides Tools for Science Teacher

A seventh-grade science teacher spent a portion of his summer on an EPA research vessel as part of a workshop sponsored jointly by the Center for Great Lakes Literacy and EPA. “Having the opportunity to research alongside EPA and university scientists aboard a floating science lab was truly a one-in-a-lifetime experience,” he said.

Read more.

 

  • Local Water Woes, No More? Advancing Safe Drinking Water Technology

In 2007, a student team from the University of California, Berkeley won an EPA People, Prosperity and the Planet (P3) award for their research project aiming to test a cost-effective, self-cleaning, and sustainable arsenic-removal technology. The same group of former Berkeley students who formed the P3 team now own a company called SimpleWater, which aims to commercialize their product in the US.

Read more.

 

  • Microbe-Free Beaches, Thanks to Dogs

Seagull droppings can carry disease-causing microbes which can contaminate beaches and water. In a new study, researchers show that unleashing dogs keeps the seagulls away—and the water at the beach free of microbes.

Read more.

 

About the Author: Writer Kacey Fitzpatrick recently joined the science communication team in EPA’s Office of Research and Development as a student contractor.

 

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action.

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#swimsafe: Let’s Chat about Healthy Waters

KidsinaswimmingpoolIt’s Recreational Water Illness & Injury Prevention Week! So let’s chat about how we’re using science to keep our water ways healthy. We’re thrilled to be joining The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)’s twitter chat #swimsafe on Wednesday May 22 at 2pm EDT.

We’ll be joining CDC experts Michele Hlavsa and Michael Beach to talk about how to keep yourself and your family healthy and safe this summer swim season and beyond. Our own EPA expert Tim Wade, a health scientist with our Epidemiology Branch will be fielding your questions about our research.

Learn more about his research investigating human health effects of waterborne exposures and new water quality methods at: http://www.epa.gov/neear/ and http://www.ehjournal.net/content/9/1/66.

Be sure to hop onto twitter, follow @CDC_NCEZID and @EPAresearch and ask questions using #swimsafe . Not on twitter? No problem! Post your questions for Dr. Wade in the comments section below.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action.

Please share this post. However, please don't change the title or the content. If you do make changes, don't attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.