Dunkard Creek Damage Was Massive, Complete

Morgantown Dominion Post
22 February 2011

Sunday’s article, “CONSOL agreement nearly done,” says “most of the marine life was killed in part of Dunkard Creek near Blacksville.” Also, it refers to a “massive fish kill.” It wasn’t just fish and it wasn’t just part of Dunkard Creek.

It was the entire stream, and the golden algae bloom, facilitated by high TDS (total dissolved solids) from mine discharge, which was identified as the killer of gill-breathing creatures, was unprecedented in a freshwater stream in the mid-Atlantic states.

Forty-some miles of Dunkard Creek, including the West Virginia Fork, was decimated of all fish, aquatic salamanders, mussels and other life. This put pressure not only on those humans who enjoy fishing, but on the great blue herons from two Dunkard rookeries, whose survival and reproduction depend on the creek for food.

In the part of Dunkard Creek that is located in West Virginia, below the Mason-Dixon Line, the state Department of Natural Resources concluded that 21,000 fish were killed. In Pennsylvania alone, the destruction of Dunkard Creek as a recreational resource was initially valued at $30 million. Dunkard Creek served us for 350 years and somehow was still viable until September 2009. It’s recovering now and may be fishable in 15 or 20 years. Freshwater shellfish (mussels), however, may take a century to return, if they ever do. Like oysters in the Chesapeake Bay, mussels filter and clean the stream.

Betty Wiley President Dunkard Creek Watershed Association Westover