Fish and Boat Commission to Discuss Recovery of Dunkard Creek

Washington PA Observer-Reporter
4 October 2016
By Bob Niedbala

Seven years after a bloom of golden algae destroyed the aquatic life of Dunkard Creek, Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission scheduled a public meeting to discuss how the creek is recovering.

The meeting will be held Oct. 13 at 7 p.m. in Mt. Morris Sportsmen Club, 366 Watkins Run Road, Mt. Morris.

The fish kill in September 2009 wiped out the aquatic life in about 30 miles of the creek, which meanders across the Pennsylvania-West Virginia border from its main stem near Brave to its confluence with the Monongahela River.

The fish commissioner estimated the kill resulted in the death of 42,997 fish, 15,382 mussels and 6,447 mudpuppies in the Pennsylvania section of the creek.

In announcing the settlement last September of a lawsuit filed in connection with the fish kill, commission Executive Director John Arway said aquatic life in the creek already began to rebound.

“But it will take many more years to restore the creek to its prior condition,” he added.

The kill is believed to have been caused by toxins from a bloom of golden algae, Prymnesium Parvum, which is normally found in coastal salt waters, not the waters of Southwestern Pennsylvania.

Following the kill, the fish commission sued Consol Energy, claiming high levels of chlorides and other contaminants discharged from the company’s Blacksville No. 2 Mine created the conditions for the algae bloom.

The commission settled the suit last September with Murray Energy Corp., which assumed liability after it purchased the Blacksville No. 2 Mine from Consol in December 2013. Neither Consol nor Murray admitted liability in the case.

The $2.5 million the commission received as part of the settlement was to be used to develop and implement projects that benefit recreational fishing and boating and the aquatic resources of the Dunkard Creek watershed.

The meeting next week will include a presentation by Rick Lorson, area fisheries manager, on the status of the recovery regarding panfish and game fish.

Chris Urban, the commission’s natural diversity section chief, also will speak about the occurrence of fish species and the recovery of mussels and mudpuppies.

Consol earlier also reached settlements with the U.S. Department of Justice, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection in regard to Clean Water Act violations in Dunkard Creek.

Consol agreed to pay a $5.5 million civil penalty and to build a water treatment plant to treat its mine discharges. That treatment plant in Marion County, W.Va., went on line in 2013.