The Department of Environmental Protection has issued a warning that levels of total dissolved solids, or TDS in the Monongahela River have exceeded the water quality standard for taste and odor established by state and federal authorities. Currently, they're detecting 599 parts per million, the limit is 500 parts per million.
Spokesperson Helen Humphreys says the TDS (which includes carbonates, chlorides, sulfates, nitrates, sodium and magnesium) mostly come from active and abandoned mines and sewage treatment plants dumping or leaking waste into the river. She says negative health effects haven't been proven, but people may notice a salty taste in their tap water or a cloudy residue on glasses that have run through the dishwasher.
Humphreys says the DEP is working on preliminary legislation that would create stricter standards for the amount of waste and chemicals that can be dumped in waterways. She admits that even with tougher standards, forcing companies to adhere to them is a struggle, especially when the fines are negligible. She says it's up to state and federal lawmakers to determine those penalties. Right now the DEP is working with the River Alert and Information Network, or RAIN to install gauges along the Mon to determine the level of TDS.