Dunkard Fish Kill 'Substantial'

DEP in 2 states try to determine cause, solution

Morgantown Dominion Post
15 September 2009
By Tracy Eddy

Pennsylvania residents living along Dunkard Creek noticed several dead fish washing up on the river's bank this weekend, as the rust-colored water crossed the state border.

Billy Craig, of the Mount Morris Sportsmans Association, kneels beside some of the dead fish he and other members of the group have found in Dunkard Creek, outside Mount Morris, since the beginning of September. Dead muskies pulled from the waters of Dunkard Creek in Mount Morris lie on the bank of the stream where hundreds of fish are dying from an unknown cause.
Bob Gay/ The Dominion Post

And the pollutant that's killing the fish is coming from "some source" in West Virginia, Helen Humphreys, spokeswoman for the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) said.

At least a 20-mile stretch of the creek has been affected by the pollution, she said.

Humphreys said the Pa. DEP took water quality samples — as did the West Virginia DEP — and the water samples taken in West Virginia showed a much higher level of total dissolved solids than the samples taken in Pennsylvania did.

Total dissolved solids are organic and inorganic minerals, salts, metals and other matter found in water.

Kathy Cosco, spokeswoman for the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection, said the W.Va. DEP agrees with its counterpart in Pennsylvania.

"There's no obvious evidence to suggest it's coming from Pennsylvania," she said. "We are now trying to isolate the source [of the pollution]."

Cosco said that all the DEP investigators will meet sometime today to go over all the data that's been recovered so far and try to figure out where the pollution is coming from. They could have a source pinpointed sometime during the next few days, she said.

The situation was first brought to the W.Va. DEP's attention Sept. 3, after West Virginia residents living along Dunkard Creek — on W.Va. 7 near Blacksville — noticed dead fish washing up on the creek's banks.

Humphreys said the Pa. DEP got involved in the investigation Sept. 8.

"We've been working together and sharing information with each other," she said. "And we know they are working hard to identify the source."

The W.Va. DEP must identify the source of the pollution, since it seems to be coming from West Virginia.

Before this weekend, it appeared the fish kill had subsided, she said, but then, DEP investigators found more dead fish, especially in the
Mount Morris, Pa., area.

Humphreys said she didn't have an exact count of how many fish had died in Dunkard Creek in Pennsylvania, but said the types of fish included mudpuppies, small-mouthed bass, mussels, muskies and redhorses.

"It is substantial," she said.

Billy Craig, Mount Morris resident and a member of the Mount Morris Sportsman Club board of directors, estimated there were thousands of fish that had been killed in the Dunkard Creek since the pollution started.

Craig said when he visited the area, he could see the fish gathering at the various parts of the creek where small side streams flowed in, as if they were trying to get to the fresh water.

"This is huge," he said. "It's killing everything in the Dunkard. I grew up on the Dunkard. I used to swim and fish there. Not anymore."