CONSOL: Progress Made on Plant

Water treatment will be up by May, spokeswoman says

Morgantown Dominion Post
20 February 2013
By Alex Lang

CONSOL says it is still working on its water treatment plant and nearly all species of fish have returned to Dunkard Creek, more than three years after a massive fish kill in the waterway.

In September 2009, most marine life was wiped out by a toxin from golden algae that was able to bloom in the high total dissolved solids (TDS) levels in Dunkard Creek. It was later determined discharge from a CONSOL mine was the likely culprit behind the elevated TDS levels.

The energy company reached a settlement with state and federal agencies as a result of violations of the Clean Water Act. As part of the settlement, CONSOL agreed to construct a $200 million wastewater treatment facility.

According to CONSOL spokeswoman Lynn Seay, the company is constructing the plant near Mannington. It is on pace for full commissioning by the end of May.

The plant has a capacity of 3,500 gallons per minute — or about 5 million gallons a day, Seay said. Water will be brought to the plant through a network of pipelines and will undergo a series of treatment processes before being discharged.

As CONSOL works on the treatment plant, the state’s Division of Natural Resources District 1 Fishing Biologist Frank Jernejcic said that 95 percent to 98 percent of fish species have returned to the stream. He added there have only been a few smaller fish that haven’t returned.

“I’m surprised it’s happening so fast,” Jernejcic said.

He said he really didn’t have an explanation on why fish have returned to the stream so quickly. He said the fish have come from the tributaries that feed in Dunkard Creek.

“It seems we’ve recovered remarkably and rapidly well,” Jernejcic said.

Jernejcic recalled a spring fishing trip where he was able to catch some big, small mouth bass, measuring up to 17 inches. The bass are also reproducing in the stream. There have also been fishermen who reported catching several muskies. Jernejcic said the DNR did not restock muskies when returning fish to the stream.

The DNR has also restocked some mussels, which the fish feed on, Jernejcic said. The DNR plans to stocking more fish in a month.