The Pennsylvania and West Virginia Departments of Environmental Protection have begun sampling and monitoring ponds and streams in the Dunkard Creek area after sampling found golden algae in a privately owned pond in Pennsylvania.
Golden algae was determined to be the cause of a fish kill in Dunkard Creek in the fall of 2009.
The pond is located just north of the West Virginia and Pennsylvania state line, downstream from the town of Blacksville. The discovery was made by staff of CONSOL Energy during routine monitoring and sampling.
CONSOL Energy reported its findings June 9 to the DEP in both states, which immediately sent staff to the area to collect samples from the pond and various sites along Dunkard Creek. The samples were sent to various experts with extensive experience studying algae. The departments are awaiting the results. On Tuesday, June 14, WV DEP staff flew over the area to see if they could spot any other water bodies with discoloration and target them for sampling.
“We are still very early in this process, and there is no evidence that the algae is having a toxic effect in the pond at this time,” said Scott Mandirola, director of Water and Waste Management for WV DEP. “We are asking residents to be aware of this discovery and look for discoloration in their private ponds and area streams.”
“Ever since this discovery, our staff has been in close contact with Dr. Bryan Brooks of Baylor University for guidance. He is one of the nation’s top algae experts, and we have been working with him for several years,” PA DEP Southwest Regional Director George Jugovic said. “While there is no evidence to suggest the health of our streams is at risk, we urge residents to be attentive to any changes they notice and to report them to us right away.”
Golden algae is not harmful to humans and is only harmful to aquatic life when it releases toxins. Experts have determined that an algae bloom that is not receiving enough nutrients will release toxins to kill nearby aquatic life to create the nutrients it needs to survive. There is no proven way to treat golden algae without also causing harm to all other forms of algae.
CONSOL had shut off discharges from its St. Leo operation prior to the discovery, and the Blacksville #2 discharge was shut down as a precaution. WVDEP, WV Division of Natural Resources, Pennsylvania DEP, PA Fish and Boat Commission and CONSOL Energy will continuously monitor for the algae as well as the overall quality of the water.
Area residents who have information to share with the regulatory agencies may do so by calling 304-368-3960 in West Virginia and 412-442-4000 in Pennsylvania.