Update on Dunkard Creek

Here is a bit of an update on the Dunkard Creek fish kill. Seems a few fish are still swimming around and they aren’t quite sure of why that might be either. over all the DEP in PA and WV don’t seem to know much about this incident but at least they are expending some energy into trying to figure it out. Those deep injection wells are a crazy idea…but I guess no one had a better one at the time?

By Tracy Eddy, The Dominion Post, Morgantown, W.Va.

Oct. 22–There are still some fish swimming in Dunkard Creek in an area of the stream above Blacksville.

A combination of the recent rain and a decrease in mine discharge may have cleared up the water and brought some fish out of the tributaries into the main stream, a West Virginia Division of Natural Resources (DNR) official said.

Frank Jernejcic, DNR District 1 fisheries biologist, said the DNR found a few bass and a few minnows in the area, but he didn’t know exactly how many.

The number of live fish found was not significant, Jernejcic said, and he does not know yet what the find means.

“They don’t always all die,” he said. “There’s a few that survive, generally.”

Jernejcic said he was at the stream Monday and he thought the water — which was described as rust-colored during the height of the fish kill — looked a little clearer.

“The stream looks a little better,” he said.

Officials believe golden algae, known as Prymneisum parvum, killed the fish and mussels living in Dunkard Creek. The creek has the right acid levels and high total dissolved solids (TDS) — including sulfates and chlorides — that favor golden algae growth.

But officials don’t know yet how the algae got there.

On Monday, Dunkard Creek was higher than it was in September, Jernejcic said — thanks to recent rainfall — and it is easier for fish to swim out of the tributaries and into the streams, or vice versa, when the stream is higher.

The rain may have also diluted TDS in the water, he said.

Jernejcic said it is possible a decrease in mine discharge also means a decrease in the amount of TDS in the stream.

CONSOL Energy stopped discharing mine water into the creek in September, in order to help with the investigation into what was killing the fish.

“It’s all a possibility,” he said. “Those things could be favorable to reducing the density of the algae, but they will not eradicate it.”

Earlier this month, the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) sent a letter to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) asking the agency to revoke an Underground Injection Control permit that allows CNX Gas Co. — a subsidiary of CONSOL Energy — to inject wastewater into the Morris Run Borehole at the inactive Blacksville No. 2 mine.

The permit allows CONSOL to dispose of up to 150,000 barrels per month of coal-bed methane wastewater, which could contain up to 25,000 milligrams per liter of TDS, according to the letter.

EPA spokesman David Sternberg said Wednesday the agency has not responded to the Pennsylvania DEP’s letter yet.

CONSOL voluntarily stopped injecting the wastewater into the borehole Oct. 2.

Kathy Cosco, spokeswoman for the West Virginia DEP, said there has been golden algae in Texas since 1985, and no one has been able to find a way to completely get rid of that algae yet.

DEP officials are researching how they can make the water conditions in Dunkard Creek less favorable for golden algae, she said.

Cosco said DEP officials are also researching ways to make the water conditions more favorable for green algae — a healthy algae for freshwater streams.

If the green algae starts to thrive in the creek, it could overpower the golden algae, she said.

Cosco said once those conditions are attained, the DEP, and the agencies it’s partnering with, will start to look at restoring the stream.


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