HARRISBURG, Pa. — The Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission (PFBC) sued Consol Energy for civil damages resulting from a 2009 pollution incident in which discharges from a Consol coal mine entered Dunkard Creek, contributing to a massive fish kill spanning nearly 30 miles of stream in West Virginia and Pennsylvania.
The lawsuits seek compensatory damages for the lost aquatic life and lost fishing opportunities for Pennsylvania anglers and punitive damages to deter future pollution.
“The devastation to Dunkard Creek was astonishing,” said PFBC Executive Director John Arway. “Commission biologists estimated that over 42,000 fish, over 15,000 freshwater mussels and over 6,000 mudpuppies were killed. They also estimated that a large number of angler trips have been lost as a result of the fish kill. The commission, acting as the Commonwealth’s trustee of these aquatic natural resources, is seeking compensation for the losses that occurred.”
In early September 2009, a total fish and mussel kill occurred in the creek after high concentrations of chloride and total dissolved solids in the discharge from Consol’s Blacksville No. 2 mine in West Virginia created brackish water conditions favorable for a bloom of toxic golden algae.
The Dunkard Creek main stem begins near the town of Brave, Greene County, Pa., and meanders approximately 37 miles between Pennsylvania and West Virginia until its confluence with the Monongahela River near Dunkard Township, Greene County.
PFBC biologists collected 40 species of fish and 14 species of mussels that were killed by the incident. Among the dead mussels was the Pennsylvania endangered snuffbox mussel.
“This was a popular warm water fishery,” added Arway. “It will take decades to restore it to its prior condition.”
The PFBC filed lawsuits seeking monetary relief against Consol for damages to the natural resources of Pennsylvania and lost recreational opportunities for Pennsylvania anglers. The lawsuits were filed in Monongalia County Circuit Court, Morgantown, W.Va., and in the Greene County Court of Common Pleas, Waynesburg, Pa.
In March 2011, Consol reached settlements with the U.S. Department of Justice, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, and the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection. The company agreed to pay a $5.5 million civil penalty to settle hundreds of federal Clean Water Act violations at six of its mines in West Virginia over the past four years, including the Blacksville No. 2 mine.
Consol also agreed to compensate West Virginia for the natural resources lost in the West Virginia portion of Dunkard Creek by paying $500,000 to the West Virginia Division of Natural Resources.
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