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The Loonies Behind UMRA

Dunkard Creek

The West Virginia and Pennsylvania forks of Dunkard Creek merge in Shamrock, Pennsylvania, to form Dunkard Creek, which meanders nearly 38 miles along the southwest border of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and the State of West Virginia, before its confluence with the Monongahela River just downstream of Point Marion, PA.

Because the valley has had a long history of coal mining and oil and gas production, water quality is an issue, particularly with regards to dissolved solids. The West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection has prepared a draft plan for a TMDL (Total Maximum Daily Load) approach to control. You can view or download a 3.2 Meg .PDF file of that report. The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection plan for a TMDL (Total Maximum Daily Load) approach for AMD affected reaches was US-EPA approved in 2007. You can view or download a 877K .PDF file of that report.

Dunkard Creek Fish Kill

Links to US DOJ & WV-DEP documents on CONSOL Settlement related to Water Pollution in Mononoghela and Upper Ohio Basins - Posted 25 March 2011

Material Added Since 2 December 2009

WV-DEP Modifies CONSOL Discharge Permit

On 23 April 2010 the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection issued a revised order to Consolidation Coal Company (Consol) which permits continued discharges into Dunkard Creek.

In the permit the DEP notes:
  • On April 15, 2010 Consol submitted draft engineering details and proposed compliance schedule for wastewater treatment at Blacksville No. 2 and Loveridge mines. The chosen treatment method utilizes reverse osmosis and evaporation/crystallization.
  • Consol has implemented and continues to monitor for certain parameters at designated outlets. Parameters include chlorides, TDS, total selenium, BOD, ammonia nitrogen and specific conductance.
  • Consol has constructed and implemented real time, continuous in-stream monitoring stations on Dunkard Creek upstream of Blacksville No. 2 outlet 003 and downstream of Blacksville No. 2 outlet 005 ... Specific conductance and chloride are monitored at these sites, as well as temperature at the downstream point. This data has been submitted to WVDEP.
  • To date, Consol has not reported any exceedences of in-stream interim limits for chloride and specific conductance.
  • Consol has implemented weekly monitoring for golden algae (prymnesium parvum) at sixteen (16) locations within Dunkard Creek and submitted the results to WVDEP.
You can click here for a 891 K .PDF copy of the actual order

WV-DEP Authorizes CONSOL to Resume Discharges in January

On 21 December 2009 the WV-DEP issued an order to CONSOL that established guidelines for the company to resume pumping water from its underground mining operations that straddle the border between West Virginia and Pennsylvania. Click here for a 94K .PDF copy of the news release. You can click here for a 1.6 Meg .PDF copy of the actual order.

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UMRA's Correspondence with Senator Robert Byrd

On 25 September UMRA wrote to Senator Byrd requesting that he ask the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to assume the lead role in the Dunkard Creek investigation. Click here to read our letter and the response of the EPA. It is stored as a 600K .PDF file.

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The 12th Water Quality Forum

The 12th Water Quality Forum (a public meeting) was held at the Mt. Morris (PA) Gospel Tabernacle Church on 3 December 2009 at 4:00pm. The meeting was sponsored by the Greene County Conservation District and the Upper Mon River Association.

The following PowerPoint presentations from the meeting are available.

Water Issues Surrounding Gas Drilling, by Bryan Swistock Water Resources Extension Specialist, Penn State University.
(1.4 Meg .PDF file)

Defining the Regulatory System for Water Management, by Charles W. Abdalla, Professor of Agricultural & Environmental Economics, Penn State University & Cooperative Extension. (2.1 Meg .PDF file)

Dunkard Creek Fish Kill Assessment, by Frank Jernejcic and David Wellman, Fisheries Biologists, West Virginia Division of Natural Resources, Wildlife Resources Section.  (2.2 Meg .PDF file)

Monongahela River TDS Concerns, by Patrick Campbell, WVDEP-DWWM (1.5 Meg .PDF file)

Upper Monongahela River Water Quality Project - Project WRI 119, by Paul Ziemkiewicz, PhD, Director, West Virginia Water Research Institute (1.3 Meg .PDF file)

Conductivity vs TDS Hays Mine R.1 chart, by Rose Reilly, U.S. Army Corps of Engineer (18 K .PDF file)

Dunkard Creek and Other WV Waters, by Patrick Campbell, WVDEP-DWWM  (2.4 Meg .PDF file)

Additional information on the meeting is available on the Greene County website:


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Update on Dunkard Creek - November 23, 2009 by Louis Reynolds, Fisheries Biologist, USEPA Region 3 (2.9Meg .PDF file) "This is an interim report on the aquatic life kill on Dunkard Creek and the investigation into the cause of the kill. Our findings at this time are preliminary." The report includes maps, tables, information and web links on Prymnesium parvum, and thoughts on restoration.

Approval Letter and Decision Rationale for Total Maximum Daily Loads for Selected Streams in the Dunkard Creek Watershed of West Virginia (106K .PDF file)
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Region III, 30 September 2009
This document is an approval of the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection (WVDEP) report Total Maximum Daily Loads for Selected Streams in the Dunkard Creek Watershed, West Virginia. It notes that "On September 9. 2009. prior to submission of the final TMDLs. EPA personnel investigated reports of a fish kill in Dunkard Creek. EPA personnel are continuing to work with representatives of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. the WVDEP. the West Virginia Department of Natural Resources. the Pennsylvania Fishing and Boating Commission. and other appropriate agencies to investigate and respond to this fish kill. The investigation is not complete. EPA anticipates that information developed as a result of the investigation may necessitate development of new TMDLs and/or other actions. such as enforcement. EPA intends to coordinate closely with WVDEP to evaluate new information generated by the investigation into this fish kill and to devise an appropriate and timely response."

WV DEP has established a web page of Dunkard Creek Information at:

Joint Legislative Oversight Commission on State Water Resources - 15 October 2009

The West Virginia Joint Legislative Oversight Commission on State Water Resources met on Thursday, October 15 to examine the 30-mile fish kill in Dunkard Creek. The meeting took place at the State Capitol, and was open to the public.

Presentations were made by Scott Mandirola, WV-DEP, Frank Jernejcic, WV-DNR. and Duane Nichols, UMRA. Click here for details.

MRRR&CC Mon River Water Quality Forum - 9 October, 2009

The 9 October 2009 meeting of the Mon River Water Quality Forum focused on the Dunkard Creek fish kill.

We offer .PDF versions of the following PowerPoint presentations which were made:

Dunkard Creek Fish Kill Assessment - September 2009
Frank Jernejcic and David Wellman, Fisheries Biologists, West Virginia Division of Natural Resources - Wildlife Resources Section

Dunkard Creek Aquatic Life Kills - September, 2009
Patrick Campbell, West Virginia DEP-DWWM (Division of Water and Waste Management)

Upper Monongahela River Water Quality Project - Project WRI 119 - July to September 09 Results
Paul Ziemkiewicz,
Water Research Institute - West Virginia University   

Real-time Data, Mon River - July to October, 2009
Slides presented by Rose Reilly, Biologist, Water Management, US Army Corps of Engineers, Pittsburgh District  

The UMRA sponsored Monongahela River Recreation & Commerce Committee (MRR&CC) promotes the conservation of the Monongahela River and provides counsel to the public and the business community in their pursuits for both economic development and recreational activities that utilize the Monongahela River. The MRR&CC meets regularly on the second Friday of each month. Typically from 9:30-9:55AM we discuss regular MRR&CC business.  At 10AM, we continue with our Mon River Water Quality Forum.

If you have item for the agenda, please contact Don Strimbeck, 304-599-7585,  dcsoinks@comcast.net.

September 2009

A fish kill on Dunkard Creek was first reported on 1 September 2009, and apparently continues through this date. It is reported that 161 aquatic species have died along Dunkard Creek. Species included large game fish and mussels which will, at best, take several decades to reestablish. The fish started turning belly up on 1 September and by 4 September dead fish were lining the deep pool below the Lower Brave Dam near the Greene County, PA town of Brave and/or the Monongalia County, WV community of Pentress.

There has been extensive press coverage of the problem, and many of the stories can be accessed on our In The News page.

Photos of the disaster can be found on the Dunkard Died web page, http://dunkarddied.shutterfly.com/

A copy of a memo from the EPA office in Wheeling to participants in the investigation has circulated on the web. This covers the period up through 14 September 2009

On 22 September UMRA circulated A Summary and Some Questions which you can view, print, or distribute from a 3 page .PDF file.

Much of the search for direct blame has focused on CONSOL Energy's Blacksville mines and a CNX (CONSOL Energy) Gas injection well. The focus should not be limited to Consol.  A brine discharge was observed some years ago which was connected with Peabody's Federal mine, well upstream of Blacksville No. 2.  The cumulative salt pollution should be viewed from a watershed perspective.  These are big mines and each may have more than one point of discharge. 

Paul Baker, of Alternative Testing Labs conducted a series of water quality tests for the Dunkard Creek Watershed Association in 2001-2002. Click here for a .PDF file of his report.

A Golden Alga Bloom?

On 25 September 2009 a WV-DEP press release said "The West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection now believes a golden algae bloom is linked to a large fish kill on Dunkard Creek, in northern West Virginia and southwestern Pennsylvania. DEP staff members investigating the incident narrowed down the causes of the fish kill after consulting with algae experts from West Virginia University, North Carolina and Texas.

The algae found in Dunkard Creek has been tentatively identified as Prymnesium parvum, commonly called golden algae, which occurs worldwide, but primarily in coastal waters that have higher salt or mineral content. The algae produces toxins that can affect gill-breathing organisms and the most visible result of a fish kill caused by golden alga is dead and dying fish and mussels of all species and sizes."

We have not seen the data on which the WV-DEP announcements are based, but we understand that the presence of the alga has been identified by at least two independent laboratories. Texas Parks and Wildlife operates the most comprehensive website devoted to Golden Algae. According to the Texas information, it appears that golden alga may be present in waters supporting large fish populations. As we understand it, although the Dunkard Creek waters were more saline than desirable, they had nearly neutral pH levels and were warm. These do not accord with the most dangerous conditions identified in the Texas information.

For a more detailed discussion of the algae question see the Algae page.

Documents Related to CONSOL Water Processing from Blacksville Mines

CONSOL Energy, which includes both coal mining and natural gas operations, is the largest single operator in the Dunkard watershed.

We have also obtained .PDF files of a number of documents related to CONSOL's water treatment plans which may be accessed on our CONSOL page.

Maps of Upper Dunkard Creek

We have a collection of maps of Upper Dunkard Creek on the Maps page.