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Continuation of Grant to Fund Greater Public Understanding of Water Quality Data

Duquesne University's role in a regional water quality monitoring initiative will be expanded, thanks to continued grant funding from the Colcom Foundation. The new funding will be used to disseminate the results of the ongoing study to community groups, government agencies and individuals in an understandable format.

The goal is to promote greater public understanding of water quality data, what it is and what it means, in order to facilitate appropriate action, when necessary.

Duquesne is one of four partners in the 3Rivers Quest (3RQ) initiative, which has received more than $1.6 million from the Colcom Foundation to establish baseline water quality data and to train citizen scientists in water sampling. In this third round of funding, Duquesne will receive $151,580 of the $350,000 from Colcom, a Pittsburgh-based foundation interested in environmental sustainability, to show community members how to use these online databases, said Dr. Stan Kabala, the 3RQ coordinator based in Duquesne's Center for Environmental Research and Education.

"People have renewed appreciation for the amenities of living by our rivers," Kabala said, citing the numbers of boats, kayaks and paddleboards spotted along with fishermen, hikers and bikers on riverside trails.

"There is no question that we have improved the region's river water quality by addressing issues like untreated sewage-a biological issue-and abandoned mine drainage-a chemical issue like those we are tracking," Kabala continued. "Industry-most prominently, fracking-poses a chemical threat to the watershed. There is a risk of going backward after decades of improvement at a time when people value these amenities and realize what a treasure these rivers are."

With the latest funding, Duquesne and each partner will hire a part-time coordinator bridging the gap between researchers and the public, sharing information and training those interested in using databases available at www.3riversquest.org.

"This new program, Research Enhancing Awareness via Community Hydrology (REACH), will give people the ability to understand what they are seeing," Kabala said. "With this ability to interpret data, it's up to them to take it to the next level and demand action if action is required."

In this way, Kabala said, citizens become more engaged in the democratic progress and even more vested in their communities. "It's definitely about citizens taking action and being engaged in the political processes with a firm base of data."

Since 2013, Duquesne has monitored the lower Allegheny River, working with the Iron Furnace Chapter of Trout Unlimited as it monitors the upper Allegheny. Wheeling Jesuit University monitors the upper Ohio River and West Virginia University, which is the headquarters for the initiative, monitors the Monongahela River.

Duquesne University

Founded in 1878, Duquesne is consistently ranked among the nation's top Catholic universities for its award-winning faculty and tradition of academic excellence. Duquesne, a campus of nearly 10,000 graduate and undergraduate students, has been nationally recognized for its academic programs, community service and commitment to sustainability. Follow Duquesne University on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
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