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Threats to area waterways increasingly in headlines

Morgantown Dominion Post - EDITORIAL
9 September 2012

Threats to our region’s water quality have never stopped flowing.

But public awareness of the value of our water has emerged as one of the most important issues to the public in recent times.

Although our wells and creeks are not running dry, the concern is evident everywhere.

Recently, at the scene of one of the most disastrous incidents in a Monongalia County waterway — Dunkard Creek — another spill occurred, that set off a scad of phone calls to our newspaper.

It wasn’t the same, as say, if Woodburn Hall was on fire, but you might have thought there was a shootout taking place.

However, we dodged a bullet that time, unlike the massive fish kill there in September 2009, that resulted in the death of scores of aquatic species.

To its credit, the company responsible for the recent spill of that nontoxic drilling lubricant did the right thing by calling in the state Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) and getting everything contained quickly.

A settlement was reached in the aftermath of the 2009 spill that resulted in $5.5 million in civil penalties. But more importantly, it called for a new, $200 million water treatment system to better control pollution discharges from that company’s mining operations in that area.

And last month, we also learned that the struggle to clean up Deckers Creek, also in Monongalia County, was dealt another setback when federal funding was shifted to projects outside our area.

That waterway has suffered the polluted drainage from a mine that was abandoned in nearby Richard more than 60 years ago.

Marcellus shale drilling has played a big role in stirring up water quality issues. Though, by and large, the incidents of this industry contaminating water supplies and aquifers is isolated and unconclusive.

Yet, we think it’s in the best interest of all local communities and counties to form a compact to ensure our waterways are protected.

We all have a vested interest in monitoring and ensuring that regulations already on the books are enforced and that the DEP does more inspections. Legislators should also be prepared to revisit these laws to update them.

Much like coal and natural gas, our state also happens to have a vast supply of clean water, a resource that is a valuable commodity around the world.

Though the future of coal, the deterioration of our roads, Medicaid funding and other issues are on the front burner now, water quality should at least be on the stove.

It’s high time we find common ground on this issue.