Fish kill update planned for Dec. 3

There is a public meeting planned in which the Green County ConservationĀ  District and the Monongahela River Association will attempt to explain what happened to cause the Dunkard Creek Fish Kill. Click the link for the full article and details.


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.

Pennsylvania DEP Wants EPA to Revoke Injection Permit

Dead fish in Dunkard Creek

Dead fish in Dunkard Creek

And they are still trying to figure out the Dunkard Creek incident. Seems the PA DEP and the WV DEP do not agree on what killed the fish! based on WV’s reputation for destruction of their environment through coal mining I’m not sure how competent their DEP is…of course at this point I don’t have much faith in PA’s DEP either.

Still trying to solve the Dunkard Creek fish kill

Pa. points to mine discharge for Dunkard Creek fish kill

By Don Hopey, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

A heretofore undisclosed underground flow of mine pool water between Consol Energy’s Blacksville No. 1 and No. 2 mines may have contributed to the highly salty, polluted discharges that caused the massive, month-long fish kill on Dunkard Creek.

The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection said stream sampling shows discharges high in dissolved solids and chlorides from Consol Energy’s Blacksville No. 2 Mine are the “primary immediate source” of the fish kill that last month wiped out aquatic life on 35 miles of the 38-mile stream that meanders along the Pennsylvania-West Virginia border.

But the DEP, in a letter dated Wednesday, has also asked Consol to provide information of the underground connections between its active Blacksville No. 2 Mine in West Virginia and its inactive Blacksville No. 1 Mine in Pennsylvania, and requested that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency revoke a deep well injection permit for coalbed methane waste water at the inactive mine.

The DEP also said it has obtained information that the mine pool in the inactive mine is flowing into the mine pool in Blacksville No. 2.

Consol has previously said that the wastewater from the inactive Blacksville No. 1 mine is not flowing into the active Blacksville No. 2 mine.

Fish, freshwater mussels, salamanders and aquatic insects started dying on Sept. 1 and continued dying throughout the month.

The Pennsylvania DEP has also asked the West Virginia DEP, in a letter dated Oct. 2, to “take necessary enforcement measures” to control pollution discharges of total dissolved solids, chlorides and sulfides from the Blacksville No. 2 mine treatment facility.

That treatment facility stopped treating and pumping mine water into the creek as the fish kill progressed last month, but Pennsylvania DEP wants assurances that the earlier pollution loads will not resume when it becomes necessary for Consol to resume pumping water out of its active mine.

“We have also observed that the levels of chlorides being discharged from . . . the Blacksville No. 2 Mine are unusually high for a discharge solely from a deep mine,” the Pennsylvania DEP said in that Oct. 2 letter. “Although Consol is primarily liable for its discharge from (Blacksville No. 2) and any consequences that result from that discharge, DEP is suspicious of other sources of chlorides that might be discharged into the Blacksville No. 2 Mine or into one of the mine pools connected to the Blacksville No. 2 Mine.”

In its six-page Oct. 7 letter to Consol, the Pennsylvania DEP requested extensive discharge and flow records dating back five years for the Blacksville No. 1 and No. 2 mines, the Morris Run Borehole where the coalbed methane drilling wastewater was injected into the Blacksville No. 1 Mine, and information about Consol’s management of interconnected mine pools in the area of southwestern Pennsylvania and northern West Virginia.

More details in tomorrow’s Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.
Don Hopey can be reached at or 412-263-1983.

Conservation board OKs resolution on fish kill

This is an article from the that relates to the accidentlal fracking fluid spills that took place at Dunkard Creek near Waynesboro, PA earlier this week. I could not get the link to work so I’ve posted the whole thing here and hopefully got rid of the HTML code that was pasted in it.
By Bob Niedbala

WAYNESBURG – Greene County Conservation District approved a resolution Tuesday supporting efforts to identify the cause of the Dunkard Creek fish kill and urging re-establishment of the creek as a warm water fishery.

The board also agreed to ask state and federal agencies responsible for enforcing environmental regulations and investigating the kill to attend a public meeting to discuss the situation.

State and federal agencies involved in the investigation have not been able to determine what caused thousands of fish and other aquatic life to die in the creek during the last three weeks.

The board wants to make sure this doesn’t happen again, said Robbie Matesic, county director of development.

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“They were alarmed by the fact we don’t know about activities taking place in the Dunkard Creek watershed that the federal and state agencies do know about,” she said.

One issue discussed by the board was the permit issued by the federal Environmental Protection Agency in 2005 to CNX Gas to operate an injection well at the former Blacksville No. 1 Morris Run Mine Shaft for brine from the company’s coal bed methane wells.

EPA issued an administrative order last month assessing the company a $157,500 penalty for failing to adequately staff and secure the well site, monitor the well’s cumulative volume and report permit non-compliance.

EPA found that between September 2007 and March 2009 at least 100 truckloads of materials were discharged at the site with levels of total dissolved solids “significantly higher” than levels included in the permit application.

Though the well is not being blamed for the fish kill, local officials were unaware of its existence. “We can find no evidence we received any notice of this permit, the violation or the consent order,” Matesic told the board.

Martin Niverth, also with the county department of development, called the EPA consent order “vanilla,” saying it requires the company to do only what it should have been doing from the beginning.

“We must take ownership of our resources,” Niverth said later. This will involve putting in place methods to be aware of such developments and to comment on them before they become reality.

Matesic said the county estimates the economic value of the 38 miles of lost stream, using Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission restoration guidelines, is more than $30 million.

The resolution approved by the board cites efforts by the county and the conservation district to address water quality issues in the watershed.

They include spending $460,000 for the development of sewage plans and line extensions, participating in a study to explore the treatment of acid mine discharge sources and cleaning up illegal garbage dumps.

County and the conservation district have worked to take care of problems they are aware of in the watershed, Niverth said. “We’ve worked our butts off and spent money only to have this slap us in the face,” he said.

The resolution notes exploitation of Marcellus shale gas has caused a significant demand on local water resources and water treatment capacity “that responsible permitting, monitoring and enforcement agencies were unprepared to accommodate.”

The resolution further states that any extractive industry should bear the responsibility, regardless of costs, for the full protection and restoration of natural resources after extraction is completed.

DEP: Aquatic disaster ‘different from any’ in recent years

A chief environmental enforcement official said Tuesday the massive fish kill in Dunkard Creek is “different from any that we’ve had in recent memory.” Michael Zeto of West Virginia’s Department of Environmental Protection Agency said what makes this fish kill so different is there may be more than one source causing the aquatic disaster. “Typically, there is a chemical or physical characteristic that points to a single source. Then, we deal with who is responsible from there. However, this fish kill may have several possibilities that could be contributing to the cause,” Zeto said. West Virginia DEP is investigating the fish kill jointly with the West Virginia Department of Natural Resources, Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection, Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and West Virginia University. “We understand the frustration people are feeling, because we feel it, too,” said Scott Mandirola, director of the West Virginia DEP’s Division of Water and Waste Management. “That’s why we have a large number of people working on this and are working with other agencies to try to determine what could be causing it,” he said. Because of heavy mining activity in the area, the industry was an early suspect. In fact, after conferring with West Virginia DEP, Consol Energy, which operates an active mine in Blacksville, W.Va., agreed to shut off its discharge into Dunkard Creek at its Blacksville No. 2 site. However, at the same time Consol was shutting off its pumps, dead fish were found upstream from its outlet, indicating that the outlet at that site is not the sole cause for the dead fish. In addition, inspectors checked mine pools from previous mining activity that are often sources of acid mine drainage. However, the water levels in the area are hundreds of feet below stream elevation at this time because the area has not received much rain in recent weeks. The agencies also have received reports from area residents suspecting tanker trucks of dumping waste water from oil and gas drilling activities into Dunkard Creek. Various agencies continue to investigate those reports. “We have found that those trucks that have been reported are withdrawing water from the stream, rather than dumping waste water,” Zeto said. On Friday, staff members from West Virginia DEP flew over the area in a helicopter to see if there was anything they could see from the air. The staff noted the stream was clouded with a rust color from the Pennsylvania line upstream to a beaver dam in the South Fork of the West Virginia Fork of Dunkard. As a result, additional staff was brought in to take samples along the 25-mile stretch. Investigators also have solicited the assistance of micro-biologists to help determine whether some form of algae or similar growth may be a contributing factor.