Posts Tagged ‘pollution’

Monitoring and Mapping Storm Water Outfalls on the Raritan River

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Here at IM Rivers we have been working on a new project to protect our local river upon which Rutgers University was built; the Raritan River.  It is a heavily polluted river, but by taking initiative we hope to clean it up so everybody can enjoy its beauty.  After obtaining a GIS shapefile from the Middlesex County Planning Department of outfalls in the county, which I told was a complete database of all storm water outfalls, I noticed that the pipes that I see everyday as part of the Rutgers Crew team were not included in this database.  This motivated us to map them ourselves, which we have just begun.  In our Interactive Map, you can see both the outfalls in the Middlesex County database and the outfalls that we have begun to map on the Raritan River.  In a very short amount of time we were able to map over 25 outfalls which were not in the Planning Departments database!  A special thanks to Rutgers Crew Coach Jon Stephanik for his time and efforts helping us with this project.  Keep checking back to monitor our progress! Scott Jablonski, VERTICES Intern

“Cleaner” Energy at the Expense of Water Quality?

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Hydraulic rock fracturing has gained much popularity with natural gas drilling companies over the past decade or so, because it can increase production of wells.  Natural gas is abundantly found in Marcellus Shale which reaches from Virginia to mid New York state.  In an effort to extract as much gas as possible, drilling companies are fracturing the shale with a large amount of water and a mixture of chemicals which they pump into the earth, a process called hydrofracking.  The problem with this method, which is well documented by the EPA, is that many of the chemicals used are toxic to humans and the environment.  Drilling requires upwards of 12,000 gallons of chemicals mixed with over a million gallons of water to be pumped into the ground, much of which will stay there and possibly seep into the ground water supply.  Some of used chemical mixture is re-collected and sent to treatment plants, but it is documented that some of the plants are not capable of removing toxins before discharging the water into a river.  This is becoming a big problem in areas such as Pennsylvania, where the number of wells has just about doubled since 2000, from 36,000 to 71,000.  The New York Times produced an informative interactive map of water contamination in Pennsylvania due to hydrofracking.  Many of the chemicals used in this process have significant health effects upon people who come in contact with them, which should be a big concern because of many wells (at least 116) have produced waste water containing levels of radioactive material over a hundred times the levels set by federal drinking-water standards. Sources: New York Times, River Network Scott Jablonski, VERTICES Intern

Using GIS for Efficient, Cost-Effective River Monitoring

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The Western Pennsylvania Conservancy (WPC) has been using GIS technology to quickly and effectively map and analyze data collected about lakes and rivers in western Pennsylvania.  Using a commercial fish-finder and Esri software products, the WPC was able to successfully generate extensive bathymetry data for 38.1 miles the Allegheny River in just 36 days.  Data was collected by the fish-finder in three second intervals and loaded into the GIS where it was used to create a raster bathymetry layer, which could then be used to create contour lines at any desired intervals.  This approach saved the WPC a significant amount of money and the collection methods allow for efficient remapping to monitor areas of special interest over time. Eli Long and Eric Chapman of the WPC noted in their report that “The bathymetry information WPC has collected will be used to prioritize further mussel survey locations and will be a vital part of the River Information System. Combined with river flow, the data can be used to model pollution concentrations, substrate shifts, and sediment deposition. The completed dataset will be a useful tool for a variety of end users from USACE to recreational boaters and academic researchers. With access to a dataset that was, until now, unavailable at this scale and level of detail, GIS users are limited only by their own creativity.” Read the Full Article by Eli Long and Eric Chapman of the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy Source: Esri Online News Scott Jablonski, VERTICES intern