Dunkard Creek Fish Kill Update

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Oct 14):
Drilling water may be cause of fish kill: DEP points to salty discharge from mine

Charleston Gazette (Sept 21):
Consol mine may not be reason for fish dying

An update on the fish kill in the Dunkard Creek which runs along the Pennsylvania and West Virginia border. As you recall, MDN pointed out that a connection to drilling in the Marcellus Shale for natural gas was tenous at best. A new story in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette further strengthens that view (although you have to read the article with a discerning eye).

This new article says the PA Department of Environmental Protection is now pointing the finger of blame (mostly) at an area coal mine. Here’s how the article starts:

A heretofore undisclosed underground flow of mine pool and methane gas well drilling water into Consol Energy’s Blacksville No. 2 Mine may have contributed to the salty, polluted discharges that caused the massive, month-long fish kill on Dunkard Creek.

Notice the confusing language that talks about “methane gas well drilling.” It leads you to believe the problem is about gas drilling, perhaps even hydrofracturing. It is not. Later on we get this:

[The PA DEP] requested that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency revoke the federal deep well injection permit that allows Consol to dispose of coalbed methane drilling waste water…

So the waste water, IF it is the cause, comes from coal mining, not natural gas hydrofracturing. We need to be very clear about that. Blacksville No. 2 is a coal mine–there is no drilling for natural gas at that location. The PA DEP is saying that discharges from the coal mine into the creek “may have contributed” to the fish kill. Consol is vigorously denying the connection.

So what is the connection to drilling in the Marcellus? A fantastical story. Here’s another paragraph, deep in this article:

The Pennsylvania DEP said that algae — which may have “hitchhiked” to the Mason-Dixon Line on drilling rigs brought up from Texas to work in the Marcellus shale gas fields in Pennsylvania and West Virginia — was able to flourish in a brackish Dunkard Creek because of the high levels of dissolved solids and chlorides discharged into the stream by Consol’s treatment facility.

There you have it. Nasty coal miners weakened Dunkard Creek, and nasty gas drillers drove trucks from Texas to the area and those little algae devils had the nerve to hitchhike along and jump into the Creek right where it was weakened and cause this problem. Go figure.

Oh, one more little wrinkle in this story, that comes from the Charleston Gazette:

West Virginia environmental officials now say a nearby coal mine may not be the only reason fish are dying in Dunkard Creek.

Department of Environmental Protection officials say more dead fish have been found in the creek, but more than a mile upstream from Consol Energy’s Blacksville No. 2 mine.

So, more than a mile upstream from where the coal mine discharges into Dunkard Creek they found dead fish. If the “weakened” water was downstream and the algae flourish in weakened water, how might that have somehow traveled upstream? Oh wait, I’m using logic instead of blind eco-nut belief…what was I thinking??

Bottom line: I’m not categorically saying the coal mine plays no role, nor that hitchhiking algae plays no role. I am saying before we declare such things to be the case, let’s investigate and use some SCIENCE instead of blind and biased beliefs to declare a combination of coal and natural gas mining as the cause.