Pa. points to mine discharge for Dunkard Creek fish kill

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A heretofore undisclosed underground flow of mine pool water between Consol Energy's Blacksville No. 1 and No. 2 mines may have contributed to the highly salty, polluted discharges that caused the massive, month-long fish kill on Dunkard Creek.

The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection said stream sampling shows discharges high in dissolved solids and chlorides from Consol Energy's Blacksville No. 2 Mine are the "primary immediate source" of the fish kill that last month wiped out aquatic life on 35 miles of the 38-mile stream that meanders along the Pennsylvania-West Virginia border.

But the DEP, in a letter dated Wednesday, has also asked Consol to provide information of the underground connections between its active Blacksville No. 2 Mine in West Virginia and its inactive Blacksville No. 1 Mine in Pennsylvania, and requested that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency revoke a deep well injection permit for coalbed methane waste water at the inactive mine.

The DEP also said it has obtained information that the mine pool in the inactive mine is flowing into the mine pool in Blacksville No. 2.

Consol has previously said that the wastewater from the inactive Blacksville No. 1 mine is not flowing into the active Blacksville No. 2 mine.

Fish, freshwater mussels, salamanders and aquatic insects started dying on Sept. 1 and continued dying throughout the month.

The Pennsylvania DEP has also asked the West Virginia DEP, in a letter dated Oct. 2, to "take necessary enforcement measures" to control pollution discharges of total dissolved solids, chlorides and sulfides from the Blacksville No. 2 mine treatment facility.

That treatment facility stopped treating and pumping mine water into the creek as the fish kill progressed last month, but Pennsylvania DEP wants assurances that the earlier pollution loads will not resume when it becomes necessary for Consol to resume pumping water out of its active mine.

"We have also observed that the levels of chlorides being discharged from . . . the Blacksville No. 2 Mine are unusually high for a discharge solely from a deep mine," the Pennsylvania DEP said in that Oct. 2 letter. "Although Consol is primarily liable for its discharge from (Blacksville No. 2) and any consequences that result from that discharge, DEP is suspicious of other sources of chlorides that might be discharged into the Blacksville No. 2 Mine or into one of the mine pools connected to the Blacksville No. 2 Mine."

In its six-page Oct. 7 letter to Consol, the Pennsylvania DEP requested extensive discharge and flow records dating back five years for the Blacksville No. 1 and No. 2 mines, the Morris Run Borehole where the coalbed methane drilling wastewater was injected into the Blacksville No. 1 Mine, and information about Consol's management of interconnected mine pools in the area of southwestern Pennsylvania and northern West Virginia.

More details in tomorrow's Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

Don Hopey can be reached at dhopey@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1983.


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