Released December 2, 2009
EPA Update on
Dunkard Creek Fish Kill
Sometime around September 1, 2009, there was a
massive fish kill along most of Dunkard Creek. The creek criss-crosses
the Pennsylvania-West Virginia border 18-times before reaching the
Monongahela River, which flows north to Pittsburgh, where it joins
the Allegheny River to form the Ohio River.
Dunkard Creek is a 38-mile creek that
contained a unique ecosystem with 161 species of fish, 14 species of mussels,
salamanders, crayfish and aquatic insects. It was one of only two or
three creeks like it on the
Monongahela River watershed. Some
experts say it will be decades before the fishery returns to normal,
if ever. Many of the fish were over 15 years old. It's believed the
mussel population may be lost forever.
While the exact source(s) of the pollutants
are still being determined, it is obvious that water high in
TDS (total dissolved solids) was to blame. High TDS levels, combined with
other favorable environmental conditions, created the perfect environment for
a toxic golden algae bloom that helped kill an estimated
and other aquatic life.
One local water expert comments:
Even if the algae bloom is what ultimately
killed the fish, it seems that the cause of the bloom is
high chloride levels. The high chloride levels are a
clear indicator of frac water, not mine pollution (which
is high in sulfates). The agencies just refuse to say
the words “Marcellus drilling” in any press article.
High TDS conditions were also enhanced by low water levels in
creeks and streams. These were caused by dry weather and
widespread water withdrawals from streams and creeks for fracing operations.
trucks can back-up to any stream 24-7 and pump out 4,200 gallons
at any time. Many watersheds in West Virginia and Pennsylvania
have been dried-up by this continuing raid for free water, since
each Marcellus well can require up to 6-million gallons of water
for fracing. Some of these same "Residual Waste" tankers
were 'moonlight dumping' wastewater into remote tributaries
and opening their drain valves as they drove back roads under
the cover of rain or darkness.
Consol, the former Consolidation Coal
Company, and its new division
CNX Gas are very active along Dunkard Creek. A local reporter included this in a recent newspaper
story about Dunkard Creek:
"The only deep injection wastewater well in the area permitted
by the U.S. EPA is the Morris Run injection well operated by CNX
Gas Co. LLP, a subsidiary of Consol Energy, at Consol's closed
Blacksville No. 1 mine in Greene County since 2005.
Because of violations at that injection facility from September
2007 to March 2009, CNX was fined $157,500 for violating
provisions of the federal Safe Drinking Water Act, including
accepting at least 100 truckloads of wastewater with total
dissolved solids levels 'significantly higher' than its federal
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette Sep. 20, 2009
wastewater fluids could have moved
laterally and vertically through former wells, mines and bore
holes. Some reports indicated the source of the contamination
was ongoing, three weeks after the initial fish kill. Drilling wastewater contains
Mother Nature's own mix of toxins from beneath the earth, in
addition to the frac fluids added above ground for the fracking
What also remains to be explained is why it took two weeks for a
full scale investigation of the Dunkard Creek fish kill to begin.