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Sewickley Creek Watershed Pollution 

The Sewickley Creek Watershed is a 168 square mile area in Southwestern Westmoreland County, Pennsylvania, drained by Sewickley Creek and its major tributaries. The watershed is a diverse area that consists of cities, boroughs, farms, and wild scenic areas. It is an area rich in history, recreational opportunities, and, unfortunately, significant water pollution problems. 

Many streams and creeks in southwestern Pennsylvania have a bright orange color. This orange color is due to abandoned mine drainage (AMD). When old underground coal mines were abandoned long ago, they naturally filled with groundwater. The groundwater became contaminated as it dissolved minerals. Natural pressure forces this contaminated water to the surface through openings in the earth called discharges. As these discharges flow into our creeks and streams, they carry the dissolved pollutants with them. Pyrite dissolves in water, and when agitated or mixed with air, this mixture turns into a rusty sludge called iron oxide. This rusty sludge coats stream bottoms and turns them bright orange. Aluminum discharges can also occur, and these discharges are milky white. AMD significantly degrades water quality, often making areas of polluted streams devoid of aquatic life.

How We Help


In 1991, a group of concerned citizens formed the Sewickley Creek Watershed Association. The Watershed Association promotes the conservation of natural resources, monitors and improves water quality, and advocates wise land use practices in the Sewickley Creek Watershed. To help clean up local waterways, the Watershed Association:

  • Monitors water quality and identifies sources of pollution in the watershed.

  • Partners with government agencies and other organizations to sponsor, develop, and maintain AMD treatment programs.

  • Works with local industries to monitor discharge facilities.

  • Participates in developing uses for AMD iron oxide as it is removed from our waterways.

  • Conducts regularly scheduled volunteer cleanups to help rid our waterways of trash and litter in order to preserve their natural beauty.

  • Identifies problems and seeks out new sources of funding for future water quality projects through the Rivers Conservation Program.

For more information on our projects, click here.

Our Mission

Today, the Watershed Association's mission is the same as it was in 1991: to protect and restore the quality of natural resources in the Sewickley Creek watershed. In order to do this, the Watershed Association seeks out and cooperates with government agencies, interested organizations, businesses, and individuals in order to implement programs that improve water quality and encourage proper land use. The Watershed Association also uses its resources to educate the citizens of the watershed as to sound environmental practices.


The Watershed Association is a non-profit 501(c) organization, and all contributions to this organization are tax deductible. To learn more about getting involved or to make a donation, click here.

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