Dunkard Creek Fish Kill Probed

Washington, PA Observer-Reporter
12 September 2009
By Bob Niedbala, Staff Writer


Pennsylvania and West Virginia natural resource agencies have been sampling water from Dunkard Creek to determine what might have caused a large fish kill in the stream first reported last week.

The kill is being investigated by several agencies butso far none has been able to identify the cause, said Carl Richardson, spokesman for the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission.

"We're still trying to figure out just how large it is, the extent of the kill," Richardson said. The kill affected not only fish but other aquatic life such as mussels, he said.

The agencies also are attempting to determine the length of the stream that may have been affected, Richardson said.

West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection began taking water samples when the kill was first reported Sept. 1, said Kathy Cosco, West Virginia DEP spokesman.

The department is just starting to analyze data and hopes to know more next week, she said. It's possible, however, the source may never be determined.

"It's like trying to solve a puzzle by putting together all the pieces," she said.

Cosco described the kill as large, citing reports that between 80 and 100 dead fish have been found along the stream from about Pentress, W.Va. downstream.

The agencies have contacted coal mines and other industries, including natural gas drillers, in the watershed to determine if they have been doing anything differently in regard to their discharges, she said. "We haven't cleared anybody yet," Cosco said.

Betty Wiley, president of the Dunkard Creek Watershed Association, said judging from information she has received, the kill is "massive."

She said she inspected the stream herself in two locations and saw dead fish. At one spot near the Buckeye Church on West Virginia Route 39 she counted about 20 dead fish floating and submerged in the water.

People have been describing the color of the water as having a "slightly reddish" tint to it, she said. What she observed, she said, "was not really red, but it didn't look right either."

People regularly fish in the creek and some are very upset about the kill, Wiley said.

"There hasn't been a fish kill in Dunkard for a long time," she said. "There hasn't been anything this extensive that I know of."

The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection and the federal Environmental Protection Agency also are assisting in the investigation, according to Richardson.

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