Mon Basin Has 38 Impaired Water Bodies
Morgantown Dominion Post
25 October 2013
TOTAL MAXIMUM DAILY LOAD
(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
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
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
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
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
FRIENDS OF DECKERS CREEK is a non profit watershed group. Its
column runs monthly. To contact the group, call 304-292-3970 or