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For more than a decade, organizations have been installing passive systems to treat abandoned mine drainage throughout the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. Through these activities, watersheds are being restored. According to an inventory of mine drainage treatment projects compiled by the Office of Surface Mining (OSM), over 280 systems exist within Pennsylvania. Many of these restoration projects, however, must be maintained properly in order to have a lasting impact. To prevent streams from reverting to their polluted condition, these projects must continue to function.

Volunteers, non-profit organizations, and government agencies have spent numerous hours collecting valuable water quality data in order to determine the effectiveness of these treatment systems. Dependent upon the organization, this data has a variety of end uses. Some groups enter this data into a computer database and use the data for reports, newsletters, etc. Other groups do not have a database and only keep paper records. Many times, government agencies store their data in proprietary databases behind firewalls for security. As a result, the availability of this data to the general public and to researchers is limited.


Stream Restoration Incorporated (SRI) has assisted numerous watershed groups throughout Pennsylvania with assessment, restoration, and protection projects. These efforts have included all necessary reports, studies, designs and construction oversight for the installation of over 60 passive treatment systems throughout Pennsylvania having a combined total of more than 300 components. With this experience, SRI understands the necessity of properly maintaining passive treatment systems and the need to make water quality data available to others.

In 2002, SRI began the development of the Datashed to aid in the operation, maintenance, and monitoring of passive treatment systems. Work began on Datashed under a small United States Geologic Survey (USGS) grant to SRI to assist interns from Grove City College in monitoring passive treatment systems in the headwaters of the Slippery Rock Creek watershed. A small company, 241 Computer Services, offered to donate much of their time to create a simple interface for these interns to upload water quality data through the Internet and to provide downloadable information, such as schematics and inspection sheets, on the passive treatment systems. As funding was not readily available for Datashed, work was completed in small increments over time. Additional partners have contributed to Datashed since its inception and include: Western Pennsylvania Coalition for Abandoned Mine Reclamation (WPCAMR), BioMost, Inc., PA Department of Environmental Protection, US Environmental Protection Agency, Greene County Watershed Alliance, Eastern Pennsylvania Coalition for Abandoned Mine Reclamation (EPCAMR), Slippery Rock Watershed Coalition, and others. The pace of enhancements to Datashed have increased with contributions from these project partners.


As funding was limited, SRI decided to use Free and Open Source Software (FOSS) where available to reduce costs while increasing the longevity, security, reliability and stability of the web site. Commercial software would have cost hundreds of thousands of dollars to meet the requirements. The FOSS alternatives have met these requirements and reduced initial and recurring maintenance costs of the software. The current configuration of Datashed uses PHP, MySQL, Mapserver, Apache, and MediaWiki as well as a host of open source functional libraries. Datashed currently offers the following capabilities:

  • Instant, 24/7 access to important documents such as Operation & Maintenance Plans, inspection sheets, directions to project sites, topographic maps, and aerial photos
  • Password-protected data submissions (i.e., field data)
  • i-Map, an interactive GIS map depicting all known passive treatment systems at abandoned mine sites in Pennsylvania and other datasets
  • Multi-parameter project searches
  • Printable monitoring reports and predefined graphs
  • Public access to all water sampling data
  • Wiki


One of the primary functions of Datashed is to offer access to materials that will allow organizations, especially volunteer-based programs, to easily monitor their passive systems. Datashed provides downloadable operation and maintenance plans, site schematics, aerial photos, as-built drawings, etc. In addition, Datashed uses Virtual Earth Web Services to allow users to view and print directions to the passive system based on their address.

Water Quality Data

The data stored within Datashed can be viewed and downloaded from the web by anyone in several different formats. The data is found by searching for the passive system or stream within a multi-parameter query or by searching i-Map. Once the site is found, data can be viewed in dynamically-generated reports or downloaded as a CSV (comma separated value) file, which is easily opened in Excel, Access or other tools to allow further calculations and data manipulations.

No data may be uploaded to Datashed without first having an account. Users must type in their password before being able to access the data submission interface. Passwords protect Datashed from potential vandalism and false data entries and provide a traceable path to the source of the data. Data can be uploaded in several ways. For new organizations using Datashed, a tool has been developed to import large datasets in an electronic format. This tool assists in matching the fields within the organizations dataset to fields within Datashed. This tool also checks the data to ensure the data is within appropriate ranges (i,e., pH is between 0 and 14). Once an organization has imported the historic dataset, the organization could continue to use the import tool or they could use an interface where they simply type the data into an online form. For organizations that would like a comprehensive assessment of their passive treatment system, operation and maintenance forms can be created. Information, such as erosion, berm stability, valve operability, etc., can be entered into an online form. In addition to water quality and operation and maintenance data, users may upload photos.

Once the data has been uploaded to Datashed, the data can be viewed or downloaded as stated previously. In addition, dynamically-generated graphs are available. These graphs use the most up-to-date information stored within Datashed at the moment they are generated. As new data is uploaded to Datashed, these graphs are updated to reflect these changes.