Smallmouth bass, panfish, catfish, and even trout stocked by the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission are increasing their numbers in Montour Run, and Mark Fedosick, president of the Montour Run Watershed Association, said the group is working hard to keep that progress going.
"We have had reports from people in the upper watershed who tell us they are seeing fish for the first time in 30 years," Mr. Fedosick said.
The 36-square-mile watershed spans Moon, Coraopolis, North Fayette, Robinson, and Findlay in the vicinity of Pittsburgh International Airport.
"Spring is a busy time of the year for us. Volunteers will be out monitoring water quality and conducting bug counts. The more bugs, the better the baseline water quality," Mr. Fedosick said.
Last year, the association dredged and removed sludge from filtering ponds at the Boggs Road and Clinton Road drainage clean up sites.
The ponds require this routine maintenance about every eight years, Mr. Fedosick explained. The ponds filter contaminates like and iron aluminum from the water as it flows out of the mines, and helps restore the water to a healthy pH level of 7, neither acidic nor alkaline.
"We have had pH levels as low as 3, which are highly acidic, but with the ponds we have brought the water to a good pH level of 7," he said.
The association was founded in 2000, dedicated to improving the water quality in Montour Run and its tributaries. The association has also worked on erosion control and storm water management projects throughout the watershed.
For 2013, Mr. Fedosick said the association is looking forward to working with Consol Energy as the company moves ahead with plans to tap natural gas deposits on 9,000 acres of county-owned land surrounding Pittsburgh International Airport, which is within the watershed.
Allegheny County Council recently approved a $500 million deal with Consol for rights to drill for natural gas using hydraulic fracking, a process that relies on pumping water under enormous pressure into the shale deposits to release the gas.
As Marcellus Shale development moves forward, Mr. Fedosick said, the group would explore the possibility of removing contaminated mine water from the watershed for use in drilling.
He said the association is always looking for volunteers to help with the many projects it has initiated in the watershed, including logging data to check stream water quality.
The group holds meetings in the Robinson Municipal Building. More information can found about the association at mrwa.info.
Bob Podurgiel, freelance writer: firstname.lastname@example.org.