As part of its mission of treating and distributing clean water to the Morgantown area, Morgantown Utility Board installed a floating monitoring station along the Monongahela River. About two miles upstream of the water treatment plant main intake, the station will monitor and provide real-time data to MUB staff.
“This floating station is part of our overall Source Water Protection Program,” said MUB Director of Communications Chris Dale. “Because 80% of our drinking water currently comes from the Monongahela River, having a device such as this to monitor its quality is of obvious importance.”
Since the Freedom Industry water contamination event in Charleston in 2014, which contaminated that city’s entire water supply, MUB has put special emphasis on protecting and monitoring the Monongahela River and Cobun Creek. This includes construction of the 370,000,000-gallon reservoir along Cobun Creek, installation of a gravity-fed raw water pipeline from the reservoir to the water treatment plant, implementation of a first in West Virginia watershed protection program and now the floating monitoring station. This is in addition to MUB’s normal array of water sampling, laboratory testing and sophisticated monitoring systems.
“This station provides another layer of protection. It’s one more way we meet our mission of protecting public health,” Dale said.
The station continuously monitors the river water for four analytes that give an indication of the water quality. These measures include temperature, pH, conductivity and dissolved organic matter. These readings are measured every five minutes then transmitted to the water treatment plant and the main computer control system.
The constant and continuous monitoring of these analytes gives system and water treatment plant operators an advanced look at source water quality and any significant changes that may impact treatment and the quality of our customer’s drinking water.
The floating station is housed atop a yellow pontoon and is entirely powered by solar panels with power reserve batteries. Weighing roughly 400 pounds, the station is 8 feet long, 4.5 feet wide and 6.5 feet tall. The total cost of the station was $70,000, funded through various grants. The device is anchored to the bottom of the river and contains a strobe light to ensure adequate visibility for boaters and other river users.
Dale asks the public keep an eye out for the device and an eye on the device.
“If you boat along the river where the station is located, it’ll be hard to miss. We ask that the public not interfere with the station in any way. The device contains sensitive monitoring equipment that permits MUB staff to monitor it 24 hours a day,” he said. “If you see someone interfering with the station or have concerns, please call us at 304-292-8443. And if you’re up for it, take a selfie with the station in the background and tag us on Facebook or Twitter.”
In calendar year 2020, MUB treated and distributed 9.5 million gallons of water per day. Approximately 80% of that water came from the Monongahela River and 20% from Cobun Creek. Information on local water quality can be found online at mub.org/ccr.