Mon Basin Has 38 Impaired Water Bodies

Morgantown Dominion Post
25 October 2013


(TMDL) describes the maximum amount of pollutant that a water body can receive and still meet water quality standards. The water quality standards are designed to ensure the quantity and diversity of aquatic life is not threatened or degraded.

TMDLs may focus on a variety of pollutants, including sewage, sediment, nitrogen, phosphorous, metals and organics. For many West Virginia streams, including Deckers Creek, the pollutants of focus are acidity, iron, aluminum and manganese. These pollutants are a direct result of coal mining activities in the watershed.

The United States Clean Water Act, passed in 1972, requires a TMDL be developed for those water bodies and identified as impaired by the state. Impairment is determined by analysis of aquatic communities and stream segments showing degraded aquatic communities are placed on the state’s 303(d) list.

As of the late 1990s, West Virginia’s 303(d) list consisted of 205 impaired water bodies. The Monongahela River Basin, including the main stem and tributaries constituted 38 of the impaired water bodies.

The following regulatory requirements were considered in establishing the Monongahela River TMDLs, which includes Deckers Creek as a major tributary:

1. The TMDLs are designed to implement the applicable water quality standards.
2. The TMDLs include a total allowable load as well as individual waste load allocations and load allocations.
3. The TMDLs consider the impacts of background pollutant contributions.
4. The TMDLs consider critical environmental conditions.
5. The TMDLs consider seasonal environmental variations.
6. The TMDLs include a margin of safety.
7. There is reasonable assurance that the proposed TMDLs can be met.
8. The TMDLs have been subject to public participation.

TMDLs are typically expressed in terms of mass per time, such as 10 pounds of iron per day. TMDLs are comprised of the sum of individual wasteload allocations, load allocations and natural background levels. A margin of safety is incorporated into the calculation to account for phenomena, such as buffering or organic acidity, which may occur naturally.

What that means: TMDLs are used to determine the magnitude of pollutants that industry, agriculture, and other activities can discharge into a watershed with negligible harm. The National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System, which is responsible for permitting all pollutant discharges, develops permissible values based on TMDLs.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency established the current Monongahela River Basin TMDLs to fulfill requirements of a 1997 lawsuit settlement agreement. However, the state of West Virginia is currently updating the existing TMDL thresholds. The updates are based on an additional decade of data collection and greater comprehension of the necessary steps to protect a water body. The citizens of West Virginia, the Monongahela River Basin, and the Deckers Creek Watershed, will continue to see improved water quality as we are fortunate that our state agencies are interested in continued protection and remediation of the state’s vital water resources.

FRIENDS OF DECKERS CREEK is a non profit watershed group. Its column runs monthly. To contact the group, call 304-292-3970 or visit