The Dunkard Creek fish kill---what caused it and how it can be prevented---was front and center at the Monongahela River Summit in Morgantown Monday.
Last September, several thousand fish washed up along the banks of Dunkard Creek in Monongalia County.
State officials say the culprit was a golden algae bloom.
But environmental officials in Pennsylvania and at the federal Environmental Protection Agency say mining discharges from Consol Energy’s Blacksville No. 2 mine created the conditions for the algae to bloom.
Last week, Consol submitted plans to the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection for a water treatment facility that would clean-up the water from underground mines in the area, instead of letting the water go immediately into Dunkard Creek.
Joe Cerenzia is a spokesman for Consol.
“The DEP will review that plan, they’ll come back to us with some comments, and then they’ll finalize the plan and it will be in place by 2013, in May,” he said.
The plan proposes to use reverse osmosis to treat the water.
Reverse osmosis is a method used to filter out salts and other dissolved materials from water.
Last December, the DEP issued an order to Consol allowing them to resume discharging into Dunkard Creek under a set of conditions.
One condition is that Consol must plan to build water treatment plants.
Consol is also required to limit its chloride discharge when the water temperature in Dunkard Creek is warmer.
DEP Secretary Randy Huffman says those requirements will continue.
“The short-term plan for Consol is to allow them to continue to drain their mine, so they can keep their miners working, and to do so in a way that we can minimize the risk of another golden algae outbreak,” he said.
“If they can store water underground during the low-flow periods and then discharge it during the high flow periods, and use that in conjunction with some type of treatment activity, that’s the perfect scenario.”
The DEP is also looking closely at setting a standard for total dissolved solids in West Virginia.
Currently, West Virginia has no standard; while nearby Pennsylvania has a 500 mg/L water standard for total dissolved solids.
Huffman says West Virginia’s standard would likely be the same.
“We’re going to propose a TDS standard in the next rulemaking cycle, which begins in the next month or so,” he said.
“It will have to go through the legislative process, and we’ll see where it comes out next winter.”
Meanwhile, the West Virginia Division of Natural Resources will continue to monitor Dunkard Creek.
DNR Biologist Frank Jernejcic says the DNR will go to several sites at the creek in July and then again in October.
“If necessary, we will stock the smallmouth bass, depending that the forage population has started to recover,” he said.
“When the forage population has recovered as fully as we think they will, we will be prepared to stock muskies, which are a higher predator.”
Jernejcic says there are five other streams in the Mon River basin that have golden algae, but no blooms have occurred.