The West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection has granted Consol Energy's request that it be allowed to restart discharging water from its Blacksville No. 2 mine into Dunkard Creek, where those discharges contributed to a massive fish and freshwater mussel kill in September.
But the approval, announced by the VWDEP today, expires April 30, and limits the amount of the discharge allowed on a given day in an attempt to reduce the chances that another bloom of toxic golden algae will occur. The algae, which is native to the South and Southwest, thrives in warm, brackish water conditions fostered by the mine discharges, which are high in dissolved solids and chlorides.
The order also requires the Pittsburgh-based Consol to complete and submit a proposal for construction of mine discharge treatment plants for its mines in northern West Virginia by April 15. It must complete construction on the first of those plants, to treat discharges into Dunkard Creek, by May 31, 2013.
The mining company had sought approval to resume discharges from its Blacksville No. 2 mine because water levels in the active mine have been rising and would soon threaten the safety of 400 miners working underground.
The company voluntarily stopped the discharges Sept. 17, during the month-long fish kill that wiped out almost all aquatic life in 43 miles of the creek along the Pennsylvania-West Virginia border.
Don Hopey can be reached at email@example.com or 412-263-1983.