History of Dunkard Creek and the Mason-Dixon Line

by Duane Nichols on August 20, 2015

Red Barn @ Mason Dixon Park

Preserving & Promoting Mason-Dixon History and Culture

Friday, August 21st, 7 pm to 9 pm – Native American flute music blended with other musical instruments.  Cody BlackBird Band, Mason-Dixon Historical Park, 79 Buckeye Road, Core, WV 26541.  $10 adults, children free under 12. This location is on Dunkard Creek, Monongalia County, WV at Brown’s Hill and Greene County, PA.

Saturday & Sunday, August 22nd & 23rd, 10 am to 5 pm – POW – WOW & Cultural Festival, Native American arts and culture; regalia, drumming, singing, story telling; style crafts, jewelry, clothing.  Auctions at 2:30 pm.  Native American fry bread, Indian tacos, other foods and drinks. $5 adults, children free under 12.

Contact: Phyllis Bruce on 304-662-6496 (leave a message).

See also an article from last year: Mason-Dixon Line celebrated on 250th anniversary


The Future Looks Brighter for Dunkard Creek

From the Editorial, Washington PA Observer-Reporter, August 10, 2015

Six years ago next month, toxins from an algae not common to Southwestern Pennsylvania killed fish, mussels, salamanders and other aquatic life along a 30-mile stretch of Dunkard Creek in Pennsylvania and West Virginia.

The algae was later identified as golden algae, which state and federal environmental agencies investigating the kill described as an organism normally found only in southern coastal waters with high levels of salt and minerals. The agencies agreed what created the conditions for the algae to thrive in Dunkard Creek were the very high levels of chlorides and other contaminants from mine water discharges at Consol Energy’s Blacksville No. 2 Mine.

Last week, the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission reported it had reached a tentative settlement in a lawsuit it filed in West Virginia for damages it claims were caused by the mine’s polluted discharges. Though Consol was named in the suit, the liability has been assumed by the Murray Energy Corp., which in December 2013 purchased Consol’s northern West Virginia mines.

Details of the agreement were withheld pending finalization of the settlement. However, in stories published on the proposed agreement, John Arway, Fish and Boat Commission executive director, said any money that may be included in the settlement will be used to help further the recovery of the creek. The creek is coming back, he said, and any money received through the settlement would be used to hasten its return.

As part of an earlier settlement for Clean Water Act violations with federal regulators, Consol also had agreed to pay a $5.5 million civil penalty and construct a water treatment plant to treat chlorides discharged from its mines in northern West Virginia, including the Blacksville No. 2 coal mine.

That treatment plant in Marion County WV went on line in 2013 and should help ensure another fish kill, at least from golden algae, won’t happen again. It also will help ensure any money invested in the creek won’t go to waste.

All of that should be good news to local fishermen, who once reported catching 40 and 50 inch muskellunge in the waters of Dunkard Creek before the September 2009 fish kill.


Subject: Dunkard Creek Fish Kill and Recovery, August 11, 2015

I have just read the Editorial from the Washington PA Observer-Reporter about Dunkard Creek and the settlement pending for damage from the 2009 algae bloom that killed over 40,000 fish and thousands of other creatures.

The article is reminiscent of catching big muskie in Dunkard Creek. Well, the fact is that BIG muskie are thriving at this time in Dunkard Creek’s feeder streams. The rapid reappearance of adult muskie (36 inches and up) is explained by WV-DNR as “they came up from the river.” As many as nine of the big fish have been identified in a half-mile stretch when the water was low and clear, 30 miles upstream from the Monongahela River.

Initial fish population recovery was fast and the fishing was good even a couple of years after the kill. It was easy to catch bass and bluegill. But now the muskie seem to be keeping those populations in check. WV-DNR should promote Dunkard Creek as a muskie stream.

See the interesting and comprehensive historical summary on the Dunkard Creek fish kill entitled “What Killed Dunkard Creek?

Betty Wiley, Dunkard Creek Watershed Association


NOTE: Marcellus shale drilling and fracking continue on hilltops overlooking Dunkard Creek. Dunkard Creek continues to be at some risk from such operations.  Marcellus shale drilling pads in Monongahela County include the Beach, Boggess, Campbell, Coastal, Eddy, Jenkins, Kassay, Statler, and Yost Pads with multiple wells present in most cases. The WV-DEP Office of Oil & Gas maintains an on-line database for these natural gas wells.

Also, the Dunkard Creek water quality continues to be spoiled by the legacy underground & surface coal mines that contribute acid mine drainage, i.e. sulfuric acid dissolved in the water and ferric hydroxide as a finely divided suspension resulting in a yellow-orange precipitate which can be seen along the lower (eastern) section as the flow joins the Monongahela River in Greene County, Pennsylvania.

{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

Active Dunkard Reflections August 21, 2015 at 1:16 pm

Reflections: Homage to Dunkard Creek

The Earth Island Cover, and the cover of the Guild of Natural Science Illustrators magazine, show a piece from the Reflections collection.

I just checked the Reflections site. It is still working for me:  


I haven’t updated it much, but it stands as a bit of history of the effort. I hope you find it meaningful.

Best wishes, Ann Payne


Downstream Alliance August 24, 2015 at 1:24 pm

RE: Earth Island Journal: What Killed Dunkard Creek

This article makes it sound like the first notice of high conductivity measurements in Dunkard Creek was in 2009, which is incorrect.  WV DEP knew of high conductivity readings in the Dunkard Creek at least nine years previous to that.  

Downstream Alliance, a non-profit group, conducted a stream quality inventory of Monongalia County streams from 1998 to 2000. In the summer of 2000 we documented 10 in-stream sites in the Dunkard Creek drainage that had conductivities greater than 2000 µS, the highest being 6400.  These were mostly in the West Virginia Fork drainage of Dunkard Creek.  At one site on Range Run, where the in-stream conductivity was 2400 µS we found a trickle of water entering the stream with a conductivity of 8000.  

With the permission of the property owner we followed that upstream to a pond. He told us the pond received water from a deep mine—it was not a treatment pond; water was intermittently pumped into the pond to keep the mine dry.  There was no discharge at the time we were there but the conductivity in the pond was roughly 14,000 µS.  Not as high as the conductivities measured around the time of the fish kill but still much higher than those of either treated or untreated acid mine drainage. We had some samples lab analyzed and they had very high chloride concentrations.

We met with WV DEP about the conductivity readings twice and they were already aware of them. They had been noticing high conductivity in the area for some unknown amount of time. They said they were in the process of including either conductivity or chloride in the NPDES requirements of the mines in the area. They seemed remarkably incurious about the source of the water though.  I think this was well before there was any Marcellus well activity in that area, although there may have been some coal bed methane extraction.

At any rate, there were indications of problems to come well before 2009.

Craig Mains, Downstream Alliance


Erin Bowers August 24, 2015 at 7:02 pm

Chronology & Photos of the Dunkard Creek Fish Kill

See this: http://www.marcellus-shale.us/Dunkard_Creek.htm


State settles lawsuit with mining firm over fish kill on Dunkard Creek
By Don Hopey / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, August 5, 2015

The Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission has reached a tentative settlement of a lawsuit that sought damages for mine discharges that caused a massive fish kill on more than 40 miles of Dunkard Creek along the Pennsylvania-West Virginia border in 2009. Details of the proposed settlement were not available Wednesday, but it will include financial payments by Murray Energy Corp. to the fish commission for damage to the aquatic life of the creek caused by discharges of polluted water from Consol Energy’s Blacksville No. 2 mine. The lawsuit was originally filed against Consol Energy in September 2011, but Murray Energy inherited the legal action when it bought the Consolidation Coal Co. from Consol in 2013.

The salty discharges from the Consol mine spawned a bloom of toxic, golden algae, normally found in Texas and other Southwestern states, that killed more than 42,000 fish, 15,000 freshwater mussels and 6,000 of a type of large salamander called mudpuppies. Consol, the Cecil-based mining and natural gas company that owned the Blacksville No. 2 mine at the time of the fish kill, paid a total of $5.5 million in civil penalties in 2011 to settle hundreds of federal Clean Water Act violations at six mines it owned in West Virginia, including the pollution discharges that contributed to the Dunkard Creek fish kill. Consol also paid $500,000 to the West Virginia Department of Natural Resources as compensation for the lost aquatic resources on the West Virginia portions of Dunkard Creek.


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