By AMY GAREIS
News-Herald Staff Writer
PIEDMONT – Another local waterway is being monitored after levels of hydrogen sulfide gas were detected in the vicinity.
Following a similar occurrence at Tappan Lake within the past month, the gas has been discovered in the outlet works area of Piedmont Lake in Belmont County. The section is known to attract some anglers but conditions are ripe for the common “rotten egg” smell for which the gas is known.
The Huntington, W.Va., District of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers stated the gas does not pose a problem to recreational users of the lake and there was no indication that fish taken from the lake pose a health risk if consumed.
Tom Leach, assistant operations manager for the Muskingum Area of the Army Corps of Engineers, said the closure was only a precaution and officials will continue to monitor gas levels.
“Piedmont hasn’t had a problem in the last three years,” Leach commented, saying the lake did have odor issues in the past.
H2S forms when the concentrations of sulfates in the watershed immediately behind the dams are higher than normal. During the summer months, the sulfates are converted to H2S gas through microbial activity occurring in the bottom layers of the lake. As the water leaves the lake, the hydrogen sulfide gas is released into the air, creating an unhealthy situation in the tailwater areas.
He said it is a natural occurrence but the gas could create some health issues. Symptoms of exposure include fatigue, dizziness, nausea and headaches and young children in particular are at risk. However, the restricted access would help reduce the chances for problems to occur.
“The outflow area is closed off so people don’t go in there as a precautionary measure,” he continued. “We monitor the levels in the control structure and at the outflow, and so far three lakes are above at Tappan, Clendening and Piedmont. Leesville and Atwood Lakes are below the 10 parts per million [threshold].”
The outlet section at Tappan Lake will likely remain closed until September. Leach said Tappan and Clendening Lakes were usually closed once they reached their threshold, and incidents have occurred each summer since 2003. Due to public safety, the area immediately adjacent to the discharges at Tappan Lake have been closed and will remain so until the problem naturally corrects itself. If necessary, notices would be posted at Leesville and Atwood should similar issues arise there.
Corps personnel will continue to monitor the situation and will notify appropriate agencies as well as the public if concentration levels are determined to pose a threat to public safety.
For more information, contact the Muskingum Area Office at 330-343-
3613 or the Public Affairs Office at 304-399-5353.