April 2010, Vol. 22, No.4


Real-Time Monitors for the Susquehanna River

Fishermen, recreational users, and others interested in the health of the Susquehanna River now can keep track of the river in real time. A Bucknell University (Lewisburg, Pa.) research project has attached instruments to cinder blocks in the river to measure the river’s water quality characteristics continually. The instruments collect information every 5 minutes and send it to a Bucknell laboratory, where the data are channeled to a Web site, according to a Bucknell news release.

The instruments measure water temperature, specific conductance, depth, acidity, oxidation–reduction potential, turbidity, chlorophyll, percent saturation of dissolved oxygen, and dissolved-oxygen concentration. The measurement systems are located near Milton, Pa., on the West Branch of the Susquehanna and near Danville, Pa., on the North Branch of the Susquehanna. There are also “roving” measurement devices that can be moved and placed at various locations along the river, according to Bucknell’s river monitoring Web site.

Matt McTammany, assistant professor of biology and environmental studies at Bucknell, analyzes the data collected, because his research focuses on how natural and man-made activities affect water quality and habitat in rivers and streams, the news release says.

McTammany worked with two students last summer to place the sensors and collect data from the instruments. The team also installed real-time sensors at water treatment facilities in Milton and Danville to record water quality characteristics, including temperature, turbidity, oxygen content, and salt content, the news release says.

McTammany’s research is part of a collaborative research project with the Susquehanna River Heartland Coalition for Environmental Studies, area conservation organizations, and a consortium that includes Bucknell, five other universities, and Geisinger Health Systems (Danville). Each of the universities is concentrating on different aspects of the river research. Bucknell is concentrating on water quality monitoring, Bloomsburg (Pa.) University is focusing on water chemistry, King’s College (Wilkes–Barre, Pa.) is surveying fish populations, Lycoming College (Williamsport, Pa.) is examining benthic macroinvertebrates, and Susquehanna University (Selinsgrove, Pa.) is monitoring algae, the news release says.

Even though the Susquehanna River’s water quality has improved during the past several decades, because the river is a part of the impaired Chesapeake Bay Watershed, water quality remains a concern, the news release says.

The work and approximately $80,000 worth of equipment are funded by grants from the U.S. Department of Education, the Degenstein Foundation (Sunbury, Pa.), an unnamed private foundation, the Forum for Pennsylvania’s Heartland (Lewisburg, Pa.), and the Foundation for Pennsylvania’s Watersheds (Alexandria, Pa.). For more information, see www.departments.bucknell.edu/environmental_center/susquehanna_river_monitoring.


University Receives FOG Grant

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) awarded North Carolina State University (NCSU; Raleigh) a $570,000 grant to fund a 3-year study that could provide urban planners with new tools to reduce the risk of wastewater spills, according to an NCSU news release. NCSU’s study will target fats, oils, and grease (FOG) in wastewater treatment systems. The grant was awarded under EPA’s Science To Achieve Results program.

EPA estimates that 40% of annual sanitary sewer overflows in the United States are caused by FOG that clogs wastewater pipes. The goal of the study is to discover what chemical reactions cause FOG deposits, according to Joel Ducoste, an NCSU associate professor of civil engineering who launched this research effort. Finding the cause of these deposits will help determine how to reduce buildup by using treatment technologies, maintenance, or regulatory standards.               

Ducoste hypothesizes that FOG interacts in the collection system with calcium or other metal ions to form hardened deposits. Once the chemistry behind the deposition is understood, scientists can develop models that identify potential “hot spots” where deposits may form, Ducoste said.

Determining areas most susceptible to FOG deposits could enable focused preventive maintenance and avoid overflows. The models also could be useful tools to help urban planners determine if an existing sewer system can sustain population growth or if the system should be modified to accommodate future growth, the news release says.


Water-Saving Urinals Receive WaterSense Label

Urinals that use 50% less water than standard models are the first commercial building product to receive WaterSense specification, according to a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) news release. WaterSense is an EPA program promoting water efficiency and enhancing the market for water-efficient products, programs, and practices.

Water-saving urinals use no more than 1.9 L (0.5 gal) of water per flush and can save 15,000 L/yr (4000 gal/yr) for every unit installed, the news release says. Even though federal standards set the maximum allowable flush volume at 3.8 L (1 gal), approximately 64% of the nation’s urinals — about 7.8 million — use older, inefficient models.

Installing the new urinals leads to significant water savings. A college with 10,000 students that installed the WaterSense-labeled urinals in its classroom buildings would save enough water to fill an Olympic-size swimming pool each year, the news release says.

Urinals bearing the WaterSense label meet EPA’s performance requirements, ensuring that they work as well as or better than standard models. All WaterSense products are independently tested and certified to meet both efficiency and performance requirements. For more information, see www.epa.gov/watersense.


©2010 Water Environment Federation. All rights reserved.