Future Looks Brighter for Dunkard Creek
Washington PA Observer-Reporter
10 August 2015
Six years ago next month, toxins from an algae not common to
Southwestern Pennsylvania killed fish, mussels, salamanders and
other aquatic life along a 30-mile stretch of Dunkard Creek in
Pennsylvania and West Virginia.
The algae was later identified as golden algae, which state and
federal environmental agencies investigating the kill described as
an organism normally found only in southern coastal waters with
high levels of salt and minerals.
The agencies agreed what created the conditions for the algae to
thrive in Dunkard Creek were the very high levels of chlorides and
other contaminants from mine water discharges at Consol Energy’s
Blacksville No. 2 Mine.
Last week, the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission reported it
had reached a tentative settlement in a lawsuit it filed in West
Virginia for damages it claims were caused by the mine’s polluted
Though Consol was named in the suit, the liability has been
assumed by the Murray Energy Corp., which in December 2013
purchased Consol’s northern West Virginia mines.
Details of the agreement were withheld pending finalization of the
However, in stories published on the proposed agreement, John
Arway, Fish and Boat Commission executive director, said any money
that may be included in the settlement will be used to help
further the recovery of the creek.
The creek is coming back, he said, and any money received through
the settlement would be used to hasten its return.
As part of an earlier settlement for Clean Water Act violations
with federal regulators, Consol also had agreed to pay a $5.5
million civil penalty and construct a water treatment plant to
treat chlorides discharged from its mines in northern West
Virginia, including Blacksville No. 2.
That treatment plant in Marion County, W.Va., went on line in 2013
and should help ensure another fish kill, at least from golden
algae, won’t happen again. It also will help ensure any money
invested in the creek won’t go to waste.
All of that should be good news to local fishermen, who once
reported catching 40- and 50-inch muskellunge in the waters of
Dunkard Creek before the September 2009 fish kill.