Fracking the Cause of Dunkard Creek Fish-Kill?

In a statement released immediately after the Dunkard Creek fish-kill, the Environmental Protection Agency stated that the fish-kill was caused by discharge containing a high amount of total dissolved solids, or TDS, which allowed the fish-killing “golden-algae” to bloom.  What the EPA failed to explain is where the discharge came from.

Both coal mining and fracking operations are found in close proximity to Dunkard Creek as it meanders through the West Virginia and Pennsylvania border.  Ultimately the EPA placed blame on one of these coal mining operations, Blacksville No. 2 owned by Consol Energy Inc.  However, lead EPA biologist Lou Reynolds has questioned whether it was coal mining or improper disposal of discharge from a controversial method of natural-gas mining: fracking.

While scientists are slowly learning about the after effects of fracking discharge, coal mines have been draining into Dunkard Creek for years without causing a fish-kill.  It was this anomaly that led Reynolds to question the source of the drainage.  Although the discharge could have come from the coal mining companies digging deeper into the earth, according to Reynolds it could also have been a result of the mining companies combining coal mining waste and natural gas waste.

Further evidence has emerged which challenges the EPA’s blame on coal mining.  Early readings of the water showed high amounts of gas-associated TDS.  Also, in March, authorities arrested a waste hauler for improper disposal of fracking discharge.  Allan Shipman is accused of dumping the dischage in tributaries of Dunkard Creek.  Currently, allegations against Shipman only allege illegal dumping downstream from the fish-kill.

Because the official blame rests on Consol, they have agreed to a multi-million dollar settlement with the EPA, even though they have made no admission of liability.

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  • So it isn’t the process of fracking but instead it is some moron dumping waste in the creek. Title to this article is sort of misleading don’t you think? This type of misleading does not help anything. This reeks of someone at Midcurrent who thinks oil drilling is bad and they looked until they found an article that fit their needs and then publish it. And to say “Scientist are slowly learning the effects of fracking” is just plain ignorant. Scientist have know the effects of fracking for over 40 years. It is beyond me why people will take one POSSIBLE (because they are not sure)  issue out of millions of oil wells being drilled to say that the industry is bad. And that others will actually believe them.

  • Jim in Houston

    I agree with Alore14074 on the apparent intention to misrepresent the cause of the pollution to be fracking, rather than the improper disposal of waste material.  We should expect better.

    Interesting to note that the coal company paid the fine, even though the cause was in doubt.  This is a double whammy in the EPA regulations.  Even if you can conclusively prove after being ordered to remediate a pollution incident that you were not the cause, the EPA can fine you for failing to carry out their remediation order.

  • Tom

    My latest favorite bumper sticker:  “Critical Thinking:  The Other National Deficit”

    While the title of Midcurrent’s article might have been better worded, it would help if readers would actually READ the article, as well as the embedded link to the original news article.  If the EPA’s lead biologist is questioning his agency’s findings in the matter, that’s worthy of reporting and of further investigation.  Given the well-financed push to increase fracking operations in my former home waters of New York and Pennsylvania, and now in my current home waters of North Carolina, I welcome articles which point out the genuine questions around the safety of fracking.  By the way, Alore14074, fracking refers to drilling for natural gas, not for oil.

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  • Gofishinor

    We need to stop drilling and mining in all wild areas. All you need to do is come to Colorado and see what it has done here