Three Years After Massive Fish Kill, Dunkard Creek Rebounding
17 September 2012
By The Associated Press
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. -- Three years after a massive fish kill,
Dunkard Creek is rebounding.
Thousands of fish, salamanders and mussels died when golden algae
bloomed in the Monongalia County stream that meanders along the
West Virginia-Pennsylvania border in 2009. The Environmental
Protection Agency said it was the first documented case of a
Prymnesium Parvum, or golden algae bloom, in the Mid-Atlantic
A year later, another fish kill was thought to have been caused by
a chemical entering the stream.
But Division of Natural Resources Fisheries biologist Frank
Jernejcic said recent testing shows that 95 percent of species are
"I fished the stream in May, and probably caught a dozen
smallmouth bass, in a three-mile stretch; they were mainly 12- to
16-inch fish [and] that was the best fishing I have had in 20, 25
years of fishing this stream. So that was a pleasant surprise,''
Jernejcic told West Virginia Public Broadcasting.
The exception is the creek's mussel population, but the agency is
working to restore the species. The department is raising young
mussels in a hatchery and then putting them in contact with a
fish. The mussels attach to the fish's gills and the fish is
stocked into the creek.
Dunkard Creek Watershed Association President Betty Wiley said it
took the disaster to create an awareness of the creek's
"Dunkard Creek is, like all streams, a very vulnerable part of our
lives and our watershed,'' she said. "It just runs through and
anybody can throw anything in it. ... People don't even realize
how important it is until something horrible happens.''
Environmental agencies concluded mining discharges in the area
helped create the conditions for the algae bloom in 2009. Consol
Energy is building a water treatment plant in the area to treat
its mining discharges, which is scheduled to start operating next
Those who work to restore the river say it's a valuable part of
the area's history.
In the mid-1700s, Charles Mason and Jeremiah Dixon -- namesakes of
the "Mason-Dixon Line'' -- crossed the area while doing surveying
and encountered a German religious sect who lived in the area. The
group was called the Dunkards because they dunked people when they
baptized them, Wiley said.
The 2009 fish kill brought a lot of attention to the stream,
prompting a traveling art exhibit and a play called "Dead Fish
Rising,'' performed in nearby Mount Morris, Pa., last year.
"It's very gratifying and [a] positive view for the future, to
know that people have cared about this and put their talents to
drawing attention to it,'' Wiley said. "It was amazing, what the
end result was.''
Wiley said Dunkard Creek isn't as nice as it was when she was a
kid, but protecting it will always be a labor of love.
"To me, Dunkard Creek runs through my bloodstream sort of,'' she
said. "I grew up right beside the creek, and I can only say that I
love it, and it is very important to a lot of people, especially