A Creek Roiled with Doubts

Decision to shelve project to treat drainage a tragedy

Morgantown Dominion Post - Editorial
19 August 2012

You can wade into Deckers Creek and trace the drainage from the Richard Mine back more than a half a century.

It’s easier than you think. Just follow the grotesquely stained creek bed from its mouth into the Monongahela River in the Wharf District to where rivulets of acid mine drainage — in Richard — flow into the creek.

But tracing modern efforts to clean up this woefully polluted waterway is not that simple, nor do they flow as consistently as the trace metals into this creek.

In the recent past, efforts by the federal Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), the state Department of Environmental Protection, Abandoned Mine Land Program, Morgantown’s City Council, the Morgantown Utility Board, the nonprofit Friends of Deckers Creek and others have all ended in a flood of doubt.

Just last week, we learned of — after the fact — $2.9 million the NRCS allocated to pay for building an acid mine treatment plant at the abandoned Richard Mine was reallocated to another project.

That funding covered the plant’s construction costs, but there was no money designated for design work. Aside from the issue of partial funding, there also was no local government sponsor to operate and maintain the plant, which put it outside the legal and practical limits of the act providing these funds.

Morgantown had offered to be a sponsor, but NRCS determined the proposal would not meet requirements.

We question how this decision was reached before those affected by it were in any position to query or reverse it. Why not a public hearing on such a tragedy?

And why can’t we find a public utility, a public body, the public will to clean up a rusty gash running directly through our community?

What does it take? Would it matter if it rolled by our doorsteps and through downtown?

Well it does, and it does matters that we’ve let $2.9 million dribble through our fingers that could have helped treat this disaster.

If this drainage is not corrected, our city and the Morgan District of this county will continue to have a polluted corridor pouring through it.

We call on all our leaders in this city, this county, these legislative districts and in the environmental community to not let this decision rush by like polluted water under a bridge.

Deckers Creek is not just an embarrassment. The metals in acid mine drainage prevent microorganisms, plants, insects and fish from living in its waters. No, the fish aren’t biting. They’re not even alive.

And if you do go wading in this unnatural stream, you won’t rust, but you’ll smell like it.