DEP Looking at Algae in Dunkard for Toxin Source
Officials:Years Needed to Restore Creek
Morgantown Dominion Post
22 September 2009
By Tracy Eddy
Officials said it would take a few years to replenish the
fish population in Dunkard Creek, once the creek starts to recover from
whatever is killing the fish and turning the water a rust color.
West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection
investigators are still working with several agencies to determine what
is polluting the water. According to a press release issued by the DEP,
investigators are now looking to see whether algae or some similar
growth could be contributing to the pollution.
Algae sometimes produces toxins, the release stated.
Frank Jernejcic, District 1 fisheries biologist for the
West Virginia Division of Natural Resources, said once the creek starts
to recover, the DNR will start a “restocking program” and bring in the
types of fish that used to live in the creek, such as bass and muskies.
But the creek’s mussel population would not be able to be replenished,
he said — at least not in our lifetime. “It’s horrible,” he said.
Dunkard Creek was home to about eight or 10 different species of
mussels, Jernejcic said. It is one of two tributary creeks in the West
Virginia stretch of the Monongahela River that had mussels.
Jernejcic said mussels are “very, very slow” to colonize, and they
don’t occur in a lot of places so they would be harder to get.
“I’m not saying it won’t be tried,” he said. “But it won’t be an easy
thing.” Residents living along Dunkard Creek — in West Virginia and
Pennsylvania — have reported hundreds of dead fish and other wildlife
since Sept. 3.
About a 25 mile stretch of the creek was affected by the pollution.
Jernejcic said he’s been down at the creek every day for the past few
weeks, counting dead fish, but he didn’t have the exact figures for how
many had died yet.
Several agencies, including the Pennsylvania and West
Virginia DEPs, the West Virginia DNR, the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat
Commission, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and WVU have been
investigating the fish kill — testing creek water and taking fish
blood, and organ and tissue samples — to try to determine the cause and
a cure for the creek.
Jernejcic said they were still waiting for the test
Officials previously hypothesized that the Blacksville No.
2 coal mine could be discharging pollution into the Dunkard Creek, but
last week, officials found dead fish about 1.5 miles upstream from the
CONSOL Senior Vice President Tom Hoffman said the
Blacksville No. 2 mine stopped discharging water into Dunkard Creek
late last week.
Hoffman said CONSOL agreed to shut down the outlet to help
with the investigation into whether or not the coal mine was
contributing to the pollution in the creek.
“We’ve been working very closely with them,” he said.
The coal mine had a permit to discharge water into Dunkard
Creek, he said, and had been doing so all year. The water is from acid
mine drainage that is treated at a facility near the mine, Hoffman
According to the DEP’s press release, the agencies
involved in the investigation are looking at several different possible
causes for the pollution, which is why it is taking “longer to solve.”