Dunkard Creek Pollution Affects Mon River Quality
14 July 2012
By Don Hopey
High levels of total dissolved solids are polluting the lower five
miles of Dunkard Creek, site of a massive 2009 fish kill, and
adversely affecting water quality in the Monongahela River,
according to state environmental officials.
TDS levels in the Mon, a water source for 11 water treatment
plants with 350,000 customers, are elevated but do not yet exceed
the state standard of 500 parts per million, according to the
Department of Environmental Protection.
The high TDS concentrations on Dunkard Creek, a tributary of the
Mon 87 river miles from Pittsburgh's Point, are caused by a
combination of low stream flow due to drought conditions,
abandoned mine discharges and the discharges from Dana Mining's
Steele Shaft treatment plants.
John Poister, a DEP spokesman, said the department's water quality
and mining divisions are aware of the problem, have investigated
the cause and asked Dana Mining to halt its discharges, which he
said has been done.
"We have an agreement with Dana that requires the company to cut
back on its discharges, but it normally isn't implemented until
August," Mr. Poister said. "But the creek flow is already at
August levels because of the drought."
The DEP has not issued any warnings about water quality to the
public water suppliers on the river or heard any complaints, he
Mr. Poister said precipitation in the Dunkard Creek watershed is 3
inches below normal for the year, and predictions say the TDS
problem will get worse before it gets better.
"Even with the discharge controls there's not a lot more we can do
because of the low stream flow rates and continued abandoned mine
discharges," he said.
A U.S. Geological Survey monitor on Dunkard Creek, at Shannopin,
Greene County, below the Steele Shaft discharges, found TDS
concentrations of approximately 5,200 parts per million or seven
times the state standard Friday.
Sampling done on Dunkard Creek Thursday above the Steele Shaft
discharges by the Greene County Watershed Alliance found TDS
levels just slightly above the standard.
Dana Mining did not return phone calls requesting comment on
High levels of dissolved solids in the Mon in 2008 and 2009 caused
problems for industries that cannot use the contaminated water and
also affected the taste of public drinking water supplies.
Don Hopey: firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-263-1983.