How local pollution affects local water
Sampling macroinvertebrates in Montour Run Watershed

In 2016, the Allegheny County Conservation District (ACCD) received a Growing Greener Grant from the Pennsylvania DEP to assess the Montour Run Watershed and develop a Watershed Plan for future treatment and maintenance. This grant is geared toward “addressing Pennsylvania's critical environmental concerns of the 21st century,” including cleaning up abandoned mines and the affected watersheds.

As it would happen, in February 2018 the Montour Run watershed began experiencing elevated levels of abandoned mine drainage (AMD). With support from this grant, the watershed team was able to collect data on water quality and macroinvertebrate populations and begin assessing the damage caused by AMD.


Collecting Macroinvertebrates to Test Water Quality.
In November 2017, our watershed specialist collected eight bottom-of-the-stream samples to search for macroinvertebrates, small aquatic creatures like crayfish or dragonflies.

Different macroinvertebrates can tolerate different levels of pollution, and the presence of certain types can indicate clean or polluted water. Some, like black fly larvae and certain clams, can survive in very polluted waters, but others (think stonefly and mayfly) can only survive in clean waters.

Six months later, we collected more samples from the same stream sites. With the help of a Student Conservation Association Sustainability Fellow, 3,597 organisms were found in those 16 samples!

These 16 samples will serve as the baseline data for further macroinvertebrate collections. Although the diversity of macroinvertebrates seems high in both the first and second samples, it is hard to glean much information from these samples because no previous data on population size or diversity exists.

These macroinvertebrates will be affected by the AMD in the streams.
The remaining questions? How much will they be affected and in what ways? Will the populations of some organisms decrease, while others increase? It’s possible!

Is it also possible that all populations will decrease? Unfortunately, an overall decrease could also happen if the stream is too polluted to sustain life. More assessment is needed.

So can we do anything about it right now?
First, we need to find out how much water quality and populations are being impacted, and what specifically is doing the “impacting.” After that, remediation tactics can be installed, but those take time and money! The best way to help in the short term is to not make the problem worse. Try planting trees and shrubs along the banks, don’t dump anything down storm drains (remember, it drains right to the streams!), or join your local watershed group.

For information on getting involved in the Montour Run Watershed, contact The Montour Run Watershed Association always welcomes more support.

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