"In Fish-Kill Mystery, EPA Scientist Points at Shale Drilling"

EPA's official investigation of a massive 2009 fish kill in West Virginia's Dunkard Creek ended by blaming the pollution squarely on Consol Energy's Blacksville No. 2 mine. But an EPA biologist said that coal mine drainage alone was not enough to explain the problem -- and that contamination of mine pools by methane and water from the Marcellus Shale formation was possibly an additional cause.

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"BLACKSVILLE, W.Va. -- Who killed Dunkard Creek?

Was it coal miners whose runoff wiped out aquatic life in the stream where locals have long fished and picnicked? Or was it Marcellus Shale drillers and the briny discharge from their wells that created a toxic algae bloom that left a miles-long trail of rotting fish along the West Virginia-Pennsylvania state line?

U.S. EPA has ended its investigation and pointed the finger at a local coal mine, Blacksville No. 2, and entered a multimillion-dollar settlement with the owner, Consol Energy Inc.

But the lead EPA biologist on the case has challenged that idea, saying that the most likely explanation for the fish kill involves the environmental effects of Marcellus Shale drilling.

Emails obtained by Greenwire through a Freedom of Information Act request show EPA biologist Lou Reynolds telling colleagues that coal mine drainage is unlikely to be the sole culprit. ...

[One of the possibilities Reynolds put forth in the emails was that] 'Mining companies are disposing of [coalbed methane] and Marcellus water in the mine pool,' or 'Mining companies are taking [coalbed methane] and Marcellus water into their treatment ponds."

Mike Soraghan reports for Greenwire October 12, 2011.

Source: Greenwire, 10/13/2011