Executive Summary
Early in 1996, the Greene County Conservation District received a grant funded through the Keystone Recreation, Park and Conservation Fund Act. This grant authorizes the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (PADEP) to provide technical and financial assistance to the Greene County Conservation District for developing a rivers conservation plan for the Dunkard Creek Watershed. This plan will ultimately put Dunkard Creek on the Pennsylvania Rivers Conservation Registry which recognizes local efforts for rivers conservation planning and encourages consistent staff action with these plans.
Public participation and assistance is an essential aspect of rivers conservation planning. At the beginning of this study, several public meetings were held throughout the watershed to get a sense of what the public was concerned about in the watershed. From these meetings we came up with seven top issues of concern in the watershed. They are as follows from most important to least important: Acid mine drainage, trash dumps, erosion and sedimentation, promote awareness of stream, raw sewage, water quality and promote heritage and recreation.
We began collecting data on the land resources, water resources, biological resources and cultural resources of Dunkard Creek with these issues in mind. The PADEP began water sampling in Pennsylvania in April of 1996 and finished sampling in April of 1997. West Virginia contracted the services of Sturm Environmental Services to sample the West Virginia portion of the watershed. They began sampling in July of 1996 and finished sampling in July 1997. To supplement this data, 8 acid mine drainage sites located around the Taylortown-Bobtown area and 3 sites along Interstate 79 were located in the lower section of the watershed. Waynesburg College's Department of Chemistry took on the task of sampling these sites. To further supplement our sampling, Americorp began sampling the upstream and downstream sections of the acid mine discharges.
On October 6 and November 16 of 1998, the PADEP did a study to assess the biological health of Dunkard Creek according to its macroinvertebrate population. Seven sections along the main stem of Dunkard Creek were studied from the Pennsylvania Fork downstream to the last wadeable section of the creek, midway between Bobtown and Poland Mines.
Dunkard Creek historically has suffered from abandoned mine drainage (AMD) and nutrient enrichment from malfunctioning or nonexistent on-lot systems and agricultural runoff. Upon review of the water sample data provided by the PADEP, the lower 6.2 miles of Dunkard (downstream of Taylortown) is severely impaired by acid mine drainage. An estimated 530 tons of acidity emanates from several acid mine discharges in this section of the creek. The highly alkaline (buffered) water in Dunkard Creek neutralizes the acid causing the pH of the mine water to rise. This increase in pH allows the iron (94 tons/year) and aluminum (55 tons/year) to precipitate on the stream bottom. It is this precipitation of iron and aluminum on the stream bottom that makes Dunkard Creek a nearly sterile stream, devoid of all life, from Taylortown to its mouth on the Monongahela River. In September of 1998, the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission reported a large fish kill on Dunkard Creek at the Taylortown bridge. A large acid mine drainage site just upstream of the kill was the cause of this kill. The site discharged a high concentration of aluminum. This high concentration was more than the stream could assimilate thus the large fish kill.
According to a 1994 report by the PADEP (1994 DEP 305(b) Report), an estimated $66,690 in recreational use of Dunkard Creek is lost per year due to the degradation of acid mine drainage. The eight discharges sampled by Waynesburg College showed pH's in the 2 to 5 range as well as high iron and acidity. It is for these reasons that we have chosen to focus on these discharges. Nearly all of the discharges are located on steep slopes and very close to Dunkard Creek. We are looking at possibly piping the discharges to areas where a passive treatment facility can be implemented. The passive facilities being considered are aerobic wetlands, successive alkalinity-producing systems (SAPS) and anoxic limestone drains (ALDS). The preliminary cost estimate will be nearly 2 million dollars. Engineers from the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), Somerset office will be designing treatment facilities for each discharge site as well as coming up with the cost estimates.
For the issue of trash dumps, we are focusing on three very large illegal roadside dumps in the lower section of the watershed. They are located in the Bobtown area. All three dumps are located on very steep slopes near the creek. These steep slopes will make clean up of these dumps challenging as well as costly. We are looking into the possibility of using draglines to get the garbage off the steep slopes as well as old fashioned physical labor. Preliminary cost estimates have been determined by engineers from the NRCS Somerset office at approximately $200,000. Before these dumps are actually cleaned up, a plan must be implemented within the municipalities to begin a clean up day. These clean up days would give the public the opportunity to get rid of large bulky items once or twice a year.
Erosion and sedimentation appears to be more of an issue in the upper watershed, where a majority of the livestock farming operations exists. Dirt and gravel roads located in the watershed also contributes to the sedimentation in the watershed. The option for this issue would be to assist landowners in implementing Best Management Practices such as streambank fencing, agricultural crossings and riparian buffers. Another would be to increase participation and thus implementation of the Dirt and Gravel Roads program to eliminate sedimentation from dirt and gravel roads.
The Dunkard Creek Watershed Association (DCWA) was formed on November 14, 1995 at the Mason-Dixon Park. The Watershed Associations purpose is to recognize and solve problems common to communities in the Dunkard Creek Watershed. The DCWA will be taking on the issues of promoting the awareness of Dunkard Creek as well as the issue of promoting the heritage and recreation of the creek. They have already begun this task by sponsoring float trips and fish stockings and will also serve as a clearinghouse for information on the Dunkard Creek Watershed. There were four signs installed along highway bridges by the WV Department of Highways at the request of DCWA, identifying Dunkard Creek below.
Raw sewage has become less of an issue throughout the Dunkard Creek Watershed due to the recent upgrade or installation of sewage treatment facilities in populated areas such as Bobtown, Mount Morris, Blacksville and Brave. There is obviously still the issue of malfunctioning private septic systems throughout the watershed. These areas have not been pinpointed as of yet. The sample data to date is not really showing such problems in the watershed. We will be trying to investigate and identify these areas to determine their impact on the stream.
After reviewing the water quality sample data, the PADEP has determined that water quality in the Dunkard Creek Watershed in general is good. Physical characteristics such as limestone geology and a forested stream corridor lessen the overall impacts of the acid mine drainage on the water quality. However, close examination of several past studies of the benthic community reflect the stressed environment as the majority of the macroinvertebrates are facultative in their response to pollution. Although the buffering capacity of Dunkard Creek keeps the water column near neutral, the quantity and quality of the acid mine drainage is more than the stream can assimilate. The substrate is covered and cemented by iron and aluminum precipitate making it devoid of all aquatic life.