Algae Found Near Dunkard

CONSOL spots it in private pond

Morgantown Dominion Post
18 June 2011
By Alex Lang

Golden algae has been found in a privately owned pond near Dunkard Creek, but there has been no evidence of dead fish, officials said.

In September 2009, a toxin released from a golden algae bloom was blamed for a massive fish kill in Dunkard Creek, along the West Virginia-Pennsylvania border.

The algae bloom was caused by increased total dissolved solid levels in the creek.

CONSOL and several government agencies reached a multimillion dollar settlement regarding the company’s alleged violations of the Clean Water Act.

Earlier this month, CONSOL reported to both the West Virginia and Pennsylvania Departments of Environmental Protection (DEP) that it found the algae in the pond during routine monitoring.

The pond is just north of the West Virginia-Pennsylvania border, downstream from Blacksville. West Virginia DEP spokeswoman Kathy Cosco said there has been no evidence of a fish kill in the pond.

The pond does have an overflow that runs into Dunkard Creek, she said. This is the first time algae has been discovered since the Dunkard Creek incident, Cosco said.

She said because of the discovery, the agency is increasing its monitoring in Dunkard Creek.

“CONSOL is as well,” Cosco said.

CONSOL spokeswoman Laural Ziemba did not provide a comment in time for this report.

The company shut off its discharges from its St. Leo mine operation prior to the discovery, according to the DEP. Blacksville No. 2 discharge was shut down as a precaution.

When the DEP found out about the algae, it immediately sent people to test for algae, Cosco said. CONSOL tests Dunkard Creek once a week, but will do so more often now because of the discovery.

The DEP had not started its regular testing for the year, Cosco said. The department thought it was too early in the year to resume testing, but the recent finding changed that.

District 1 fisheries biologist for the Division of Natural Resources Frank Jernejcic said the news was “kind of a surprise after a year-and-a-half of not finding [golden algae].”

The DNR will not be changing any procedures because of the finding, Jernejcic said. In about a month, the department will return to Dunkard Creek to survey the fish. Jernejcic said he has received reports of more fish being seen in the creek.

The big concern right now is determining how widespread the algae is, Jernejcic said.