Fairmont State University students helping Monongahela River quality with new data


FAIRMONT, W.Va. – Organizations have teamed up to improve water quality in the Monongahela River. Students and staff from Fairmont State University will be putting their heads together with the City of Fairmont to find ways to help what officials say is the environment’s most precious resource – water.

Monongahela River

“If you have a healthy ecosystem, you will have a healthy fish population, and a healthy ecosystem will mean you will have a good quality of water in your intake that will be going to your water plant for treatment,” said David Sago, Fairmont Utility Manager. 

In January, Dominion Energy gave Fairmont State University a $25,000 grant. With that money, students put sensors in two creeks — Coal Run and Hickmann Run — that lead into the Monongahela River.  

“The advancement of this project would not be possible without Dominion Energy. This grant allows us the capabilities to expand our research from one stream to two local streams. In the past students with Dr. Mark Flood were conducting site visits to manually collect samples, but now, they’ll have access to many more data points, so the stream can be analyzed at many different phases, including before, during and after a storm,” said Fairmont State University’s MS4 Coordinator, Stephanie DeGroot. 

The sensors collect data on the water condition for students to analyze. The students then present ideas on how to improve the city’s water quality.

City officials looking at data on Hickmann Run Creek

“The city has the expertise and certain resources, but we don’t necessarily have the employees or the time, so getting the student involved and getting them out of the lab and getting them real-world experience, hands-on, has just been completely invaluable to them,” DeGroot said. 

The project has been in the making for several years. Hickman Run Stream serves as a drainage basin for roughly 1,700 acres of land in Marion County. The waterway has been affected by both household and commercial activities and as a result, has suffered from pollution and a decline in critical biological diversity. 

The goal of the project is to improve the water quality for people to have clean water and to increase the fish population.  

Hickmann Run Creek

“Creating a sustainable approach to our world is part of who we are,” said Dr. Mirta Martin, president of Fairmont State University. “Whether it’s the environment, whether it’s our waterways, this is what the next generation is going to need to survive. We only have one earth. We only have limited resources. We need to protect them. We need to conserve them, and this is the beginning for Fairmont State or rather the continuation of those efforts of that mission to educate the next generation of leaders, to provide them a practical application and to also teach them the values that part of their responsibility is to create sustainable and to protect the resources that are so limited in our earth.”  

And more projects to better improve streams are possible in the future.  

Dominion Energy, Fairmont State University and City of Fairmont officials at Hickmann Run Creek

“It will all be about protecting the environment, continuing to strengthen the ecosystems in all of our aquatic life streams here in the community for the final product is keeping a better stream for our downstream folks because everybody lives downstream,” Sago said. “We continue to utilize the same water. We utilize it for drinking water, utilize it for sanitary sewer, clean it up to where it meets federal and state guidelines put it back in the stream, send it down for somebody else to use.” 

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