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Chester County Press

Stroud shares water quality data at township meeting

11/08/2016 12:50PM ● Published by Richard Gaw
By Richard L. Gaw
Staff Writer

Stroud Water Research Center Assistant Director David Arscott, Ph.D., a consultant for London Grove Township on the progress and data of its two water sensor monitors, provided preliminary water sampling testing results at the township's board of supervisors meeting on Nov. 2.
The research included studying water sensor data from samples at two locations, and analyzing water chemistry from base flow and storm flow grab samples from three locations in the township: on Rosehill Road, at the Avon Grove Little League field, and the Lake Road Bridge crossing. After sending the samples to several analytical labs for evaluation, Arscott told the supervisors that each show differences among sites on base flow and storm flow conditions. The research indicated that the highest concentrations of dissolved organic carbon, phosphorous, ammonium, potassium and sulfate in storm flow samples were found at the most downstream site, and at another site, high concentrations of immonium, nitrogen, potassium and phosphorous were also found.
The Stroud Center also performed E. coli bacteria sampling, which Arscott reported was very high in storm flow samples at all sites, and highest at the downstream-most site during base flow. The E. coli bacteria sampling  indicated the presence of fecal materials, which Arscott said could be the result of dogs, cats, geese, leaky pipes, septic systems and compost piles, among other potential sources.
"The compounds we were measuring were not necessarily all regulated pollutants, but they give us a very comprehensive picture of the water quality at those sites," Arscott said. "The analyses samples included several forms of nitrogen and phosphorous, organic carbon and major ions like calcium, magnesium, potassium, sulfate and chloride.
"From these data, we can see a change in water quality downstream that is reflective of a poorer water quality, which is reflective of landscape changes between sites and added sources of pollutants, as the creek meanders from West Grove downstream towards Avondale, in many but not all properties of the water we looked at," Arscott added. "What we see when we look at that data are water quality conditions that are similar to many of our other streams and creeks draining our mixed agricultural and urbanized landscapes in southern Chester County, and we all want to work towards improving conditions on the ground to keep those pollutants out of the waterways."
With assistance from the Stroud Center, the township purchased and deployed the real-time wireless monitoring stations in July 2015 to monitor in-stream characteristics, water levels, water temperature and the electrical conductivity of the water -- related to the concentration of minerals and other ions in the water -- at two locations. In addition to submitting the preliminary report, the Stroud Center worked with the township to process samples collected during base flow conditions and water quality of streams during a single storm event.
Board chairman Richard Scott-Harper told Arscott that the township is very interested in what the monitor testing can do to potentially zero in on the exact sources of the pollutants, which he called 'fingerprinting.' Arscott's Stroud Center report is the latest step in the township's effort to help clean up its waterways and, if possible, to target specifically where those pollutants are coming from. Soon after purchasing the two monitors, the Stroud Center conducted preliminary testing at township sites, which revealed that there were spikes in conductivity levels in streams near the vicinity of Nutra-Soils, Inc. located on 324 Old Baltimore Pike.
"I don't want to give up on the idea of fingerprinting," Scott-Harper asked Arscott. "To me, that's what caught my ear. If you can identify if it is or is not from [a particular source], that solves a lot of problems."
Over the last several years, Nutra-Soils, Inc. has committed 15 violations of DEP laws, during inspection reports. In April 2014, Connors said that an inspection by the DEP of Nutra-Soils, Inc. documented a clear violation of the Clean Water Act; specifically, noting hand-dug channels from a million-gallon retention basin that were filled with spent mushroom substrate water. The DEP report documented that the basin was overflowing into nearby creeks.
During his presentation at the township's supervisors meeting on Nov. 4, 2015, supervisor Dave Connors was joined by over 50 concerned township residents in targeting Nutra-Soils, Inc, for what those in attendance claimed is a regular and odorous emission of hydrogen sulfide into the environment, which affects nearby streams and waterways. Over the past few years, officials at Avon Grove High School have encouraged the parents of students who complained about odors to contact the DEP, requesting that they give the DEP Nutra-Soils, Inc.'s address on Old Baltimore Pike..
Earlier this year, the township took the preliminary data from the Stroud monitoring sensor stations to the DEP, who responded by asking the township to do more testing. Connors asked Arscott if the township should get one more sample, and then meet again with the DEP.
Although he agreed that the township has enough data to go back to the DEP, Arscott said, "I think the discussion will still focus on 'Who is it? What exactly is the issue here? How can you show exactly where these pollutants are coming from?' What is clear and what any reasonable person who understands this data will see that there is a degradation in water quality as you move downstream."
"We promised our residents almost a year ago that we would go through this process, and it's taking a little longer than we anticipated, but it sounds like we need to do a little more testing," Connors said. "Are we prepared to go back to the DEP and say, 'This is what we found,' combined with inspection reports that we've compiled over the last several years?"
"What we have to do is say [to the DEP], 'We've identified the problem. It's up to you to find the source,'" Scott-Harper said. "'We're spending our taxpayer dollars and you've got to step up now.'"
In other township business, the board approved a new policy calling for the reordering of its meeting agenda, as a method of streamlining its public meetings. Now in effect, supervisors' meetings will be divided into "action items" and "non-action items." Public comment will be permitted before each for a maximum of five minutes, and comment must be related to items on the meeting agenda. The person providing public comment may be allowed to exceed that time limit at the approval of the board. Each person addressing the board must state his or her name and organization, if applicable, prior to making a comment. 
Further, public comment is not intended to require supervisors and township staff to provide answers to the speaker, if the question requires the pursuit of information. Township residents and taxpayers will be given priority in addressing the board, and all comments must be limited to township matters.
Any member of the public has the permission to record the proceedings of a public meeting, but must state at the beginning of the meeting that he or she is recording, and provide his or her name and address. Any video or recording device may be operated from an inconspicuous location, and all devices may be used in a manner that is not distracting.
To contact Staff Writer Richard L. Gaw, e-mail rgaw@chestercounty.com.


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