Thousands of fish and minnows turn up dead in local creek
West Virginia's Dunkard Creek experiences its second fish kill in less than one year.
Tuesday, July 13, 2010 - 20:44
WRONG TURN: A one-mile stretch of Dunkard Creek proved to be toxic for fish and minnows passing through. (Photo: eutrophication&hypoxia/Flickr)
Several months ago I wrote a blog post concerning a fish kill that occurred in Dunkard Creek, a waterway that straddles the border of Pennsylvania and West Virginia. Forty-three miles of the stream were effected after a mass of pollutants caused golden algae to bloom over the water's surface. Just two weeks ago, on July 1, a tributary of Dunkard Creek located in Western Monongalia County, W. Va., experienced its second fish kill in less than a year. Somewhere around 6,000 to 7,000 minnows and small fish were found dead along a one-mile section of the creek.
The West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection (WVDEP) claims that the kill appears to have nothing to do with mining or gas drilling operations — as opposed to the previous kill. Apparently, no operations of this sort are being conducted in the immediate vicinity of this stretch of the creek. Kathy Costco, one of the WVDEP spokespersons was quoted as saying the kill had the "characteristics of a chemical coming through and then passing on down the stream," yet there is not yet evidence to support such a claim. Biologists associated with the Division of Natural Resources have also mentioned suspicions that a harmful chemical was involved.
Though representatives from the water resources, mining and oil and gas offices of the WVDEP all came to inspect the site, a cause for the fish kill has yet to be determined. The organization has, however, put water monitors in the area which should yield results in about a week. Hopefully this will give investigators some idea of what is responsible for killing so much wildlife.
The fish kill which occurred on Dunkard Creek in September 2009 was certainly a more horrific disaster than the most recent incident. Around 43 miles of stream were affected in the original kill whereas the present incident claimed only one mile. In September, the stream's entire mussel population was wiped out, along with almost all fish and salamanders. Only minnows and darters were victims of this month's kill.
Despite the disparities in the amount of destruction caused by each incident, I find it incredibly frightening that one creek has undergone two fish kills within one year's time. Though this disaster could have certainly been worse, it certainly cannot be belittled either. Water quality is a serious issue here in West Virginia. As a four-year resident of Monongalia County, I have long been aware that the water here borders on the edge of being potable and I know that many other places in the state have it worse. I am sure that this month's fish kill has residents at the western end of the county very concerned. How are West Virginians supposed to trust the creeks which run through their yards and the water that comes out of their taps when it cannot even sustain life?
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