Joint Legislative Oversight Commission on State Water Resources

15 October 2009

Press Release Date: 10/13/2009,  Contact: Delegate Barabara Fleischauer

Legislature to Investigate Dunkard Creek Fish Kill

MORGANTOWN, W.Va—The Joint Legislative Oversight Commission on State Water Resources will meet on Thursday, Oct. 15 to examine the 30-mile fish kill in Dunkard Creek. The meeting will take place at the State Capitol from 9-11 a.m. in Room 208-W, the Senate Judiciary Committee Room. It is open to the public.

“The frustrating thing is that folks in the Upper Monongahela River Association predicted that something like this would happen last year. Although our local delegates introduced a bill last session, HB 2960, intended to remedy what happened, sometimes it takes a disaster to get legislation passed,” said Delegate Barbara Evans Fleischauer.

The first report of a fish kill in Dunkard Creek, which criss-crosses the Mason-Dixon line, was recorded on Sept. 1, 2009. The kill has since affected at least 161 aquatic species.

“Some of the thousands of fish that were killed were huge,” said Fleischauer. “It is particularly sad that this occurred in a beautiful stream that local residents had banded together to restore, maintain and protect through their watershed association.”

There is not yet any official conclusion as to the factors which caused or contributed to the fish kill, but the presence of golden algae bloom, Prymnesium Parvum, which has not previously been identified in Mid-Atlantic waters, has been confirmed. Increased levels of total dissolved solids during the relevant time periods have also been recorded.

House Bill 2960 was introduced during the Regular 2009 Session. It was sponsored by Delegates from the Dunkard Creek area including Fleischauer, Marshall, Beach and Shook (all D-Monongalia) and Delegates Manypenny (D-Taylor) and Longstreth (D-Marion). It would have required the DEP to establish standards to control the levels of total dissolved solids in state waters.

In addition, the bill would require submission of data to the DEP regarding withdrawal of water for fracturing and other purposes, as well as treatment for discharge of fluids into state waters. The bill did not pass, but legislators plan to reintroduce it in the 2010 Regular Session.

The Joint Water Resources Committee is chaired by Delegate Tim Manchin (D-Marion) and Senator John Unger (D-Berkeley).

“I hope the interim meeting on Thursday will bring attention to the causes of this modern environmental disaster. I think it is important to look quickly into what other states have done in order to prevent this from spreading to other streams in our state,” said Manchin.


Joint Legislative Oversight Commission on State Water Resources - Agenda for Thursday, October 15, 2009, 9:00 am - 11:00 am

Location: Senate Judiciary - Room 208W
1. Call to Order, 2. Roll Call,  3. Adoption of Procedural Rules
4. Approval of Minutes for February, June, July and September 2009
5. Representative of EQT Corporation - discussion of Company’s recent contract with a waste water disposal facility to receive and process Marcellus gas well waste water for all the Company’s drilling operations in West Virginia.
6 Staff presentation of memos summarizing other states and West Virginia’s requirements for water use associated with Marcellus formation gas drilling operations.
7. Presentations on the 30-mile fish kill on Dunkard Creek in Monongalia County that occurred this month:
a. Scott Mandirola, West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection;
b. Frank Jernejcic, District Fisheries Biologist, West Virginia Department of Natural Resources.
8. Duane Nichols, Upper Mon River Association; 
9. Adjournment

"Commission" (Committee) Members:
SENATE: John Unger II (Chair, D-Berkeley Co.), John Pat Fanning* (D-McDowell Co.), Mike Green (Vice-Chair, D-Raleigh), Mike Hall* (R-Putnam Co.), Walt Helmick (D-Pocahontas Co.).
HOUSE OF DELEGATES: Tim Manchin* (Chair, D-Marion Co.), Barbara Evans Fleischauer (D-Monongalia), Virginia Mahan (D-Summers), Tim Miley (D-Harrison), Don Perdue (D-Wayne), Bob Schadler* (R-Mineral).
STAFF:  Joe Altizer*, Teri Anderson*, Sandy Johnson*, Jay Lazell*.
*-Legislators and staff members present for this hearing.  Barbara Fleischauer could not attend due to another meeting in Martinsburg.

NOTES by Duane Nichols, Upper Mon River Association

This meeting took place as scheduled. It was a little late starting and with the formal part complete by 10:45 giving some time for conversations.  Item 5. refers to the new brine processing facility in Fairmont.  The visitor from EQT (formerly Equitable Gas) was not a technical person and provided essentially no useful information. I did not see the Memos mentioned in Item 6. Numerous questions were asked and three or so reporters were present to collect informal interviews.

EQT-- The Appalachian Basin is bursting with new drilling and production activity, and EQT Production is at the center of it all. With more than 3.4 million acres, approximately 13,000 gross productive wells, and 3 trillion cubic feet of proven natural gas reserves, EQT is Appalachia’s largest exploration and production company, developing and implementing advanced drilling technology to tap into unconventional reservoirs such as shale, tight sands and coalbed methane. The Equitable Gas Company is a division of EQT, providing natural gas to over 252,000 customers in 10 counties of southwestern PA and 25 counties of northern WV.

Scott Mandirola, WVDEP, presented the same Power Point slides shown by Pat Campbell at the UMRA meeting this past Friday at the Morgantown Airport. 

Frank Jernejcic, District Fisheries Biologist, WV DNR presented the same Power Point slides shown by David Wellman this past Friday at the Morgantown Airport.

Summary of Remarks by Duane Nichols in Charleston, WV, October 15, 2009

The Upper Mon River Association has conducted 11 monthly Water Quality Forums at the Morgantown Airport in Monongalia County since November of 2008.  The primary impetus was originally the high TDS and low flows in the Monongahela River most noticeable in August of 2008. Since that time, problems of high TDS have continued in the Mon River and in a number of its tributaries. WV and Pennsylvania representatives have cooperated and participated in these Forums. 

The need now exists to establish water quality standards for all the streams of WV, given that the recent fish kill on Dunkard Creek was so devastating.  This was initially a crisis situation which became a disaster and a catastrophe.  Thousands of fish, mussels, and other creatures are dead and no one knows how to regenerate the stream.  The conditions on Dunkard Creek could be repeated on 18 or more other streams throughout West Virginia.   A water quality standard of 500 parts per million, for example, would meet national drinking water standards, and this would be sufficiently low as to remove threats of a golden algae bloom, according to the information currently available. 

UMRA encourages the WV DEP to implement a web-site as soon as possible, to present the most recent data and other information available on the Dunkard Creek disaster and other possibly related sources. We understand that some sort of web-site may be in preparation at WV DEP.  The sharing of information and the coordination among the state agencies of WV and PA as well as the federal agencies is of critical importance at this time.  UMRA intends to continue monthly Water Quality Forums in Monongalia County.

It was noted earlier today that most of the large underground mines in north central WV and southwester PA are interconnected underground such that water flows from one to the under and accumulates at various locations. Pennsylvania is now in the process of establishing a legacy trust fund, to collect monies for future pumping and treating of these waters.  It is suggested that the WV legislature could encourage such funds  and that WV DEP and WV PSC could promote trust funds for future water treatment, given that abandoned mine land monies are scarce.

The UMRA folding display entitled Upper Mon Water Trail was distributed to each member of the committee present along with copies of the two page “11th MONONGAHELA RIVER WATER QUALITY FORUM, Sponsored by the Upper Monongahela River Association, October 9, 2009 – Morgantown, WV, DRAFT OVERVIEW, 2009 Dunkard Creek Fish Kill”. 

The importance of the Monongahela River was reviewed, given its substantial usage for public water supplies, industrial water supplies and recreational activities.  The high TDS values experienced by the Morgantown Utility Board last summer and this past summer were described.  This results in problems for each household with foul taste, hard water for washing activities, and the clogging of values and pipes. The problems of TDS in the cooling water of the numerous power plants were described including the issue of violating federal emission standards from cooling towers and the accumulation of salt solids within the evaporative cooling towers.  And, the issue of undesirable polluted water for recreational purposes was mentioned.

This talk resulted in a number of comments afterward indicating substantial sympathy among the committee members and the others present.  It is estimated that approximately 25 observers attended this session, in addition to the “Commission” (Committee) and Staff.

Attending the session was Don Garvin, Legislative Coordinator for the WV Environmental Council [], an umbrella organization representing the various environmental groups of the State.  Beth Little of the Sierra Club attended. Also attending were David McMahon, an attorney for and founder of the WV Surface Owner’s Rights Organization [] and Julie Archer also with  Julie can also be reached at the WV Citizens Action Group [].