Your Environment Update for September 17, 2015

  • Sam Berman, 6, from the Temple Sinai in Pittsburgh, gets ready for the Tashlich ceremony held during Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish new year. During the service, bread is thrown in the river to symbolize the letting go of sins from the previous year. Photo: Lou Blouin

September 17, 2015

Dunkard Creek Gets $2.5 Million in Settlement

This week, the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission announced a settlement in a case against Murray Energy for a 2009 fish kill on Dunkard Creek. The commission initially filed a lawsuit against Consol Energy, claiming discharges from its northern West Virginia mines contributed to the massive fish kill in West Virginia and Pennsylvania. Murray Energy assumed liability in 2013 when it purchased mines from Consol.

In the lawsuit, the commission estimated more than 40,000 fish—as well as thousands of mussels and mud puppy salamanders—died in the kill. Money from the settlement will be used to benefit recreational fishing, boating and the aquatic resources of the Dunkard Creek watershed.

Toxic Algae Now a Concern on the Ohio River

The blue-green algae that have been plaguing Lake Erie are now a growing concern for biologists watching the Ohio River. The algae create microcystin, a toxin that can result in liver and nerve damage in people or pets who swallow it. In 2014, the toxin made national headlines when it left a half million people in the Toledo area without drinking water. Microcystin was first reported in the Ohio River in August near Wheeling, West Virginia. Now Kentucky officials have extended an advisory for the river from the West Virginia state line to 75 miles upstream of Louisville.

Water officials say the last time blue-green algae bloomed on the river was near Cincinnati in 2008. The algae feed on phosphorus and nitrogen that wash into waterways from farms and sewage plants.

‘Mon’ Plays Host to Rosh Hashanah Celebrations

On Monday, the Monongahela River provided just the right setting for the symbolic washing away of sins by some members of Pittsburgh’s Jewish community. About 70 people from the Temple Sinai gathered at the busy 18th Street boat launch for a service known as Tashlich.

The ceremony, which is observed during Rosh Hashanah, the celebration marking the Jewish new year, involves tossing pieces of bread into the river to represent the shedding and cleansing of past transgressions. To hear more about the event, check out the audio postcard and essay featured in our Our Three Rivers series.