Assessing & Monitoring Water Quality

LWA's water quality monitoring program examines the health of our area waterways by analyzing macroinvertebrate populations and conducting electrofishing surveys, along with traditional laboratory samples for chemical and bacterial parameters. In addition, LWA maintains an active datalogger program to monitor potential negative impacts from natural resource exploration on nearby waterways. For over 15 years, this data has been collected and reviewed to determine the health of dozens of local streams.

In 2021, The Loyalhanna Creek Watershed Priority Assessment & Restoration Plan was completed to further examine the health of the streams that were identified as restoration priorities from the original assessment that was done in 2005. The plan includes the results from a visual assessment conducted on over 100 miles of high gradient streams and reviews the channel conditions, riparian zones, canopy cover, bank stability, water appearance, nutrient enrichment, fish barriers, embeddedness, aquatic habitat and invasive species present for each stream segment. Aquatic species of interest, including the Eastern Hellbender Salamander, Eastern Brook Trout and freshwater mussels, were also investigated.

To download a full copy of this plan, click on the button below.

Solving AMD Pollution

Most of the Loyalhanna Creek Watershed is underlain with the Pittsburgh coal seam which was heavily mined beginning in the late 1800s. By the 1920s, coal resources were depleted and the mines were abandoned and left to fill with groundwater. Minerals from exposed rocks left during the mining process are dissolved in this water and when this water eventually reaches the surface and mixes with oxygen, it is known as abandoned mine drainage (AMD). It is this water that has historically created and continues to produce the main source of pollution in the entire watershed.

In 2010, LWA was awarded a $500,000 Growing Greener grant from the PA Department of Environmental Protection to construct a passive treatment system located in Unity Township near Legion Keener Park to treat 500 gallons per minute of AMD that once flowed into the Loyalhanna Creek nearby. The project involved the design and construction of three large settling ponds and an expansive wetland area to allow for natural infiltration of the polluted water.


Restoring Streambanks

Erosion is a common problem throughout the entire Loyalhanna Creek Watershed due to frequent high water events, ice flows and loss of riparian habitat due to development pressure. This coating of soil can cause a variety of problems for aquatic life, covering habitat and food sources that are vital for fish and insects living in the stream.

To address this problem, LWA began working with a coalition of organizations that include the PA Fish & Boat Commission, Western PA Conservancy, Westmoreland Conservation District, and Forbes Trail Trout Unlimited. Over the past decade, our organization has successfully completed over 75 streambank restoration projects throughout the upper and middle watershed. These projects involve the construction of rootwads, rock and log vane deflectors, mudsills, and other devices that repair the damaged banks to reduce erosion and sedimentation, while creating stream habitat for fish and other wildlife.