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Water: Nonpoint Source Success Stories

West Virginia: Morris Creek

The third and fourth sites are upstream from a residential section of Morris Creek, where the old Eureka #2 mine discharges highly acidic water from several seeps and collapsed portals adjacent to the stream for several hundred feet. Two projects were designed to treat these sources: the Lower Mainstem and the Upper Mainstem sites. The Lower Mainstem passive treatment system consists of an anaerobic wetland with five 30 by 250-foot cells lined with 6 to 9 inches of limestone in a 60-mil liner, a 30 by 100-foot-wide polishing pond, and wetland plantings consisting of cattails, bull rushes and common rushes. The Upper Mainstem treatment system is the largest of the four projects. To treat the discharges adjacent to the creek, partners installed a 15 by 450-foot-wide drainage channel with five check dams lined with a 12-inch layer of limestone (Figure 2). The creek itself is routed through a 450-foot OLC to add alkalinity.

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Partners finished installing treatment systems in September 2006. Water quality improved immediately. Initial monitoring results showed that Morris Creek and its tributaries (Possum and Blacksnake hollows) met water quality standards for pH, aluminum, iron and manganese below the treatment sites. In fact, the treatment systems reduced metal loads far beyond that required by the TMDL (Table 1). In response, aquatic life is returning to the creek, including a surviving population of brown trout fingerlings (stocked by Trout Unlimited). DEP expects to remove Morris Creek from the 303(d) list of impaired waters in 2010 if conditions remain improved.

Some challenges remain. Flooding and sediment accumulation have caused some problems with the systems in the two years since construction. The efficiency of the Lower Mainstem treatment system has declined, allowing the iron levels to rise again in the creek below this site. However, pH and aluminum continue to meet water quality standards. The partners plan to secure an engineering review of the system to isolate the problem and fix it.

Although the creek is not officially considered impaired for sediment, partners recognize that excess sediment is entering the creek. As part of the comprehensive effort to restore Morris Creek, the DEP Nonpoint Source Program applied to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for two grants to reduce sediment loads. The Phase I project, completed in September 2007, restored 1,500 feet of abandoned road, armored culvert outfalls and improved road drainage. The project should reduce sediment entering Morris Creek above the Upper Mainstem site by 213 tons/year. Another part of this project reduced erosion pressure from a large slip area known as the Jones Hollow Slip. This section of the project should reduce sediment by 370 tons/year. Phase II, which began in 2008, includes stabilizing stream banks along the residential section of Morris Creek.

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Partners and Funding

The projects received a nonfederal match of $971,810: $312,683 from the Watershed Cooperative Agreement Program (state matching funds) and $659,127 from AML. The DEP Nonpoint Source Program contributed $690,167 in section 319 funds. Project costs totaled $1,661,977. The MCWA provided project assistance and initiated valuable partnerships, such as that with the DEP Nonpoint Source Program. The success of these projects is due in large part to the MCWA.

Table 1. Initial environmental results after installing acid mine drainage treatment systems in the Morris Creek watershed.
Project site pH level: pre/post treatment Metal reductions achieved
Aluminum (lbs/yr) Iron (lbs/yr) Manganese (lbs/yr)
Possum Hollow 3.5/6.7 390.55 47.45 102.2
Blacksnake Hollow 4.4/5.0 84.45 76.65 36.86
Lower Mainstem 4.0/6.3 1,759.3 9,249.1 1,098.65
Upper Mainstem 4.2/5.4 31,006.75 276,483.85 31,119.9
Total Reductions -- 33,248 285,857 32,320
TMDL Allocations -- 5,900 8,007 4,444

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