Test Shows No Golden Algae in Pond

Washington PA  Observer Reporter
13 July 2011
By Bob Niedbala, Staff writer

The state Department of Environmental Protection has been unable to verify an initial report that golden algae responsible for the 2009 Dunkard Creek fish kill is in a small, private pond near Blacksville, W.Va.

DEP, along with West Virginia DEP, announced last month that golden algae had been detected in a pond just north of the West Virginia line and about 100 feet from Dunkard Creek.

"We did some follow-up sampling and were unable to detect any golden algae," Kevin Sunday, DEP spokesman, said Tuesday.

The report of golden algae in the Greene County pond was made by employees of Consol Energy Inc., during routine monitoring and sampling.

The company, which is required to conduct sampling under a consent order with W.Va. DEP, immediately reported the find to both Pennsylvania and West Virginia environmental agencies.

"DEP did not find any golden algae or any similar algae during the analysis of sampling from the pond," Sunday said.

"Normal, and quite sparse, levels of bacteria were detected, but the department is unable to account for what caused Consol's analysis," he said.

Pennsylvania and West Virginia DEPs were informed of the find July 9 and immediately began sampling and monitoring ponds and streams in the Dunkard Creek area.

West Virginia DEP staff even flew over the area to see if they could spot any water bodies with discoloration that should be checked for algae.

Golden algae is not harmful to humans and is only harmful to aquatic life when it blooms and releases toxins, as it did in Dunkard Creek two years ago. The bloom killed nearly all fish, mussels and salamanders along a 43-mile section of the stream.

Golden algae is normally found in coastal waters with high levels of salt or minerals. The agencies earlier determine that what created the conditions for the algae to thrive in Dunkard Creek were high levels of total dissolved solids in the stream from mine discharges.

TDS levels in the creek had increased dramatically just before the fish kill. Particularly high levels were found at the Blacksville No. 2 Mine water discharge.

Consol agreed in March to pay $6 million to settle violations regarding pollution in Dunkard Creek related to the fish kill. The company also agreed to build a water treatment plant to address discharges from four of its underground mines in northern West Virginia.

DEP continues to monitor area waterways and encourages the public to notify it of anything out of the ordinary, Sunday said.

Anyone who has noticed any changes in the waters of any area streams or ponds can call DEP at 412-442-4000.