He said the conditions in the creek were ripe for the algae bloom because of high levels of chloride and other dissolved solids, as well as the creek’s temperature.
Huffman blamed golden algae, or chrysophytes, a large group of algae, found mostly in freshwater -- usually in the desert Southwest and warmer climates than West Virginia.
“The algae is the culprit, but the water temperature, the sunlight, and the makeup of the water from the mine drainage have worked together to create the perfect storm for this algae,” Huffman said.
He says the algae can flourish in areas with high chloride levels and other total dissolved solids – such as exist now on Dunkard Creek.
Those chloride levels were high, he said, in part because of discharges from Consol Energy’s Blacksville No. 2 mine and an acid mine drainage treatment facility upstream at St. Leo.
He said those levels appear to have increased recently. One possible culprit is a new borehole on the Pennsylvania side that’s injecting polluted water into the mine void.
Huffman did not say what that borehole was, but last month, the EPA fined CNX Gas Co. more than $150,000 for failing to properly staff the site of a shaft injection well in Green County, according to the Observer-Reporter in Washington, Pa.
The EPA permitted the well in 2005 for disposal of CNX Gas Co. coal bed methane brine.
Since at least 2002, DEP officials have known that Consol’s discharges were violating federal water quality standards.
But in 2004, 2007 and 2008, the agency gave them additional time to comply. The most recent compliance order sets a deadline of 2013 for Consol to meet Clean Water Act standards.
In August 2008, the Appalachian Center for the Economy and the Environment notified state officials it intended to sue. It was trying to force Consol to comply with the federal Clean Water Act.
Just hours later, DEP officials sent out a public notice of its intent to give Consol until 2013 to meet chloride standards.
On Wednesday, Consol Energy’s spokesman Tom Hoffman also blamed an algae bloom for the fish kill. But he did not believe it is connected to his company’s discharges.
Dunkard Creek meanders over 38 miles on the border of West Virginia and Pennsylvania, near Morgantown.
Earlier this month, the massive fish kill eliminated more than 160 species of fish, salamanders and endangered mussels from one of the most biologically-diverse streams in either state.