DEP: No Fish Kill in Dunkard Creek

State agency to monitor cleanup of nontoxic spill

Morgantown Dominion Post
1 September 2012
By Jim Bissett

Dunkard Creek dodged an environmental bullet Thursday.

The material that a company installing an underground pipeline accidentally leaked into its waters was nontoxic, a spokesman with the state Division of Environmental Protection (DEP) said.

“If you know the history of Dunkard Creek,” Tom Aluise said, “you know that’s pretty significant.”

The spill happened near Blacksville at the creek that was roiled with a major fish kill three years ago.

Momentum, the company doing work in the western end of Monongalia County, inadvertently released bentonite, a material that is mixed with water and used to lubricate the industrial-sized drill bits that bore through the earth.

The Texas-based company that has offices in Westover is doing the drilling to install transmission lines for its M3 Appalachia Gas Gathering System project, Aluise said.

Those lines will eventually be used in Marcellus shale exploration, he said. The shale is a prehistoric rock formation rich in natural gas that runs thousands of feet below most of the Appalachian region, including West Virginia.

Aluise said the company acted quickly when it discovered the spill.

“They had everything contained in a hurry,” he said. For now, Aluise said, the company has hired an outside environmental company and has also enlisted its own workers in the cleanup effort that includes laying down sandbags to contain the water made cloudy by the bentonite.

The DEP will also monitor the work, Aluise said.

Dunkard Creek, which meanders 33 miles through Mon County and neighboring Greene County, Pa., has had its waters fouled over the years with acid mine runoff. In September 2009, mine water illegally discharged wiped out virtually all of its aquatic life.

“No fish kill on Thursday,” Aluise said.

Kevin Arkola, who pastors at Trinity Baptist Church, which is directly behind the spill area, said Momentum is now picking up steam on the work.

“The company is being very neighborly and apologetic about the whole thing,” said Arkola, who lives next door with his wife and children.

That will also carry over Sunday services, he said. Last week, 74 people slid into Trinity’s pews, he said. This week, Momentum will make sure they have a place to park.

While its trucks are taking up space in Trinity’s lot, Arkola said the company will put down mats so cars can park elsewhere in his yard for church.

“That’s to keep people from tearing up the grass,” he said.

Aluise said Friday he didn’t know how long the cleanup would take. Calls to Momentum’s Westover office weren’t returned in time for this report.