It’s Still Not Water Under the Bridge
DEP should review its oversight policy on Dunkard Creek in light
Morgantown Dominion Post
30 July 2012
Though the exact time is subject to change, it has to be so dark
before you can actually see the stars.
We are beginning to wonder if the state Department of
Environmental Protection applies a similar measure to how it
monitors Dunkard Creek’s marine species. Is it when they start
floating before it begins more frequent monitoring?
Recently, we reported on the efforts by West Virginia and
Pennsylvania’s departments of environmental protection (DEP) to
record Dunkard Creek’s water quality.
The stream meanders through nearly 37 miles of Greene County, Pa.,
and Monongalia County until emptying into the Monongahela River
near Point Marion, Pa.
Almost three years ago, this waterway was the site of a disastrous
fish kill that devastated scores of species of fish and other
Extraordinarily high levels of TDS in the water then — in
September 2009 — resulted in a golden algal bloom, poisoning the
Since then, both states’ DEPs have taken significant steps to
ensure such a disaster does not reoccur, including increased water
quality testing to determine the stream’s levels of total
dissolved solids (TDS).
But earlier this month, we learned that although Pennsylvania’s
DEP has recently stepped up its monitoring as a result of the
unusually low water levels, it’s business as usual for West
Admittedly, our state’s DEP has four continuous monitors along
Dunkard Creek. However, they are not even checked weekly, to the
best of our knowledge.
There also appears to be infrequent, at best, communication among
the two states’ agencies on their testing data and other
Far be it from us to pretend to be environmental engineers.
However, since last winter’s lack of snowfall and this year’s
abnormally dry conditions — despite recent rainfall — we think our
state’s DEP should keep a closer eye on Dunkard Creek’s water
At least bi-monthly exchanges between the two states’ DEPs are
also advised, under the circumstances.
Though we trust mining operations that are permitted to use this
stream to discharge mine water are acting accordingly due to its
low water levels, that still should be verified.
We are inclined to believe that water quality has been
substantially improved in Dunkard Creek, forever. Yet, the best
way to ensure that is frequent testing, cooperation among agencies
and public awareness.
This creek has already made history, once. If we fail to learn
from that event and look below its surface, we could still repeat