Joint Legislative Oversight Commission on State Water Resources
15 October 2009
Press Release Date: 10/13/2009, Contact: Delegate Barabara
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
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
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
b. Frank Jernejcic, District Fisheries Biologist, West Virginia
Department of Natural Resources.
8. Duane Nichols, Upper Mon River Association;
"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
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,
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
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
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 [www.wvecouncil.org],
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 [www.wvsoro.org] and Julie
Archer also with
wvsoro.org. Julie can also be reached at the WV Citizens Action