Acid Mine Drainage May Be Cause Of Fish Kill That Includes Muskies

Pennsylvania and West Virginia natural resource agencies have been sampling water from Dunkard Creek to determine what might have caused a large fish kill, including numerous muskies. On Tuesday, September 15, it was reported that acid mine drainage may have been the cause.

Helen Humphries, spokeswoman for the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection, told news agencies that the cause of the kill has not been determined.

However, tests of water samples taken from the stream indicate very high levels of total dissolved solids in the water, including high levels of chlorides, which indicate possible contamination from acid mine drainage.

The agencies are now looking at active mine discharges in the watershed as a possible source of the pollution, she said.

A preliminary report prepared on the fish kill by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency indicates that Blacksville No. 2 Mine is a possible source.

Hundreds of fish and other aquatic life have been killed along about a 20-mile stretch of the creek which runs through West Virginia and Pennsylvania. Additional dead fish were found during the past weekend, Humphries said.

Local fisherman Tom Burrie told Musky Hunter magazine on September 15 that “in the last three days I’ve found 26 dead muskies. Everything’s dead.”

The agencies also are attempting to determine the length of the stream that may have been affected, said Carl Richardson, spokesman for the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission.

West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection began taking water samples when the kill was first reported September 1, said Kathy Cosco, West Virginia DEP spokesperson.

Betty Wiley, president of the Dunkard Creek Watershed Association, said judging from information she has received, the kill is “massive.” 

She said she inspected the stream herself in two locations and saw dead fish. At one spot near the Buckeye Church on West Virginia Route 39 she counted about 20 dead fish floating and submerged in the water.

People have been describing the color of the water as having a “slightly reddish” tint to it, she said. What she observed, she said, “was not really red, but it didn’t look right either.”

People regularly fish in the creek and some are very upset about the kill, Wiley said. 

“There hasn’t been a fish kill in Dunkard for a long time,” she said. “There hasn’t been anything this extensive that I know of.”

The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection and the federal Environmental Protection Agency also are assisting in the investigation, according to Richardson.

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