Settlement Announced on Dunkard Creek Fish Kill
Washington PA Observer-Reporter
15 September 2015
By Bob Niedbala, Staff Writer
The Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission announced Monday it
reached a $2.5 million settlement with Murray Energy Corp. for
civil damages related to the September 2009 fish kill on Dunkard
The settlement results from a lawsuit the commission filed in 2011
against Consol Energy, claiming discharges from the company’s
northern West Virginia mines contributed to the massive fish kill
along nearly 30 miles of stream in West Virginia and Pennsylvania.
Liability in the case was assumed by Murray Energy in December
2013, when Murray purchased Consol’s northern West Virginia mines.
“We’re pleased that we’ve reached a settlement and can close
this chapter of the Dunkard Creek case,” commission Executive
Director John Arway said in a news release.
In its lawsuit, the commission had estimated 42,997 fish, 15,382
mussels and 6,447 mudpuppy salamanders died in the kill.
“The devastation was astonishing,” Arway said. “PFBC
biologists collected 40 species of fish and 14 species of mussels
that were killed by the incident. Among the dead mussels was the
Pennsylvania endangered snuffbox mussel,” he said.
Four years of litigation have come to an end, Arway said. “But it
will take many more years to restore the creek to its prior
Money from the settlement will be placed in a restricted account
to be used for developing and implementing projects that benefit
recreational fishing and boating and the aquatic resources of the
Dunkard Creek watershed, the commission said.
Once restoration is complete, the commission may use remaining
funds for restoration projects in other Southwestern Pennsylvania
Murray agreed to pay the settlement in lieu of civil damages for
the lost aquatic life and lost fishing opportunities for
Pennsylvania anglers as a result of the incident.
The commission has maintained the fish kill was caused by toxins
released by golden algae, which thrived in the high levels of
chloride and total dissolved solids that were discharged from the
company’s Blacksville No. 2 Mine.
“Murray Energy Corp. was not involved in the events or
circumstances in this case, in any way, as it assumed the defense
of this action after its acquisition of Consolidation Coal Co. in
December 2013,” Murray spokesman Gary Broadbent said.
Broadbent noted the fish kill was caused by a naturally occurring
golden algae bloom. “While this bloom was unfortunate, Dunkard
Creek is recovering naturally, at a very rapid rate, and aquatic
life is now thriving,” he said.
West Virginia earlier settled with Consol on issues regarding the
kill. In March 2011, Consol agreed to pay $500,000 to West
Virginia for natural resources lost in the West Virginia portion
of Dunkard Creek during the kill.
The company 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.
Though it did not admit liability, Consol agreed to pay a $5.5
million civil penalty to settle Clean Water Act violations at six
mines in West Virginia and spend $200 million to build a water
treatment plant to treat discharged at four underground mines in
northern West Virginia.
The commission was not included in the settlements and filed
lawsuits in West Virginia and Pennsylvania in September 2011,
seeking monetary relief against Consol for damages to natural
resources and lost recreational opportunities for Pennsylvania