PA DEP: Mine Discharges Contributed to Dunkard Fish Kill

The West Virginia DEP still stands by its theory that golden algae killed fish in Dunkard Creek. But, the Pennsylvania DEP says the primary cause of the fish kill is CONSOL's mine water discharges into the stream. West Virginia Public Broadcasting's Ben Adducchio reports.

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The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection says Consol Energy's mine water discharges into Dunkard Creek were a primary cause of the fish kill.

This differs from the West Virginia DEP's statement that a golden algae bloom is the main culprit.

Pennsylvania DEP thinks CNX Gas Company; a subsidiary of Consol, pumped water left over from gas well drilling into Blacksville No.1, an inactive Consol coal mine.

Helen Humphreys is a spokeswoman for the Pennsylvania DEP.

"We understand that the mine pool water from Blacksville No. 1, into which the Morris Run Borehole is drilled, is seeping into Blacksville No. 2 mine pool."

"That mine pool is being pumped and discharged at the Blacksville No. 2 discharge and directly into the West Virginia fork of Dunkard Creek.î

The Pennsylvania DEP also sent a letter to the West Virginia DEP, asking the agency to enforce measures that would control pollution discharges.

Unlike the West Virginia DEP, Humphreys says the Pennsylvania DEP is not convinced that a golden algae bloom is the main culprit for the fish kill in Dunkard Creek.

"The golden brown algae requires a brackish or salty environment."

"That salty environment certainly was contributed to, in a significant manner, by the discharge of Blacksville No. 2."

But Consol disagrees with the Pennsylvania DEP's assessment of the fish kill.

Consol Spokesman Tom Hoffman doesn't think the company's gas drilling activities affected Dunkard Creek, and he doesn't think enforcement measures are necessary at this time.

"We think it's premature to begin deciding on changes that need to be made when we don't really know yet what caused this organism to bloom," he said.

"Whether you believe or you don't believe there is migration of water across the coal barrier, the water chemistry is unaffected," he said, "it's the same as before we started putting coal bed methane well water into the Blacksville No.1 shaft at Morris Run."

Currently, Consol has a permit from the Environmental Protection Agency to dispose of their coal bed methane drilling water in the Blacksville No. 1 mine.

But the EPA ordered Consol to stop injections last month.

The Pennsylvania DEP wants the EPA to revoke the permit.