Dunkard Creek - Mathews Restoration Site

Mathews Restoration Site

Dunkard Creek drains a rural 235-square-mile (610 km2) watershed within nine townships in Greene County, Pennsylvania, and three districts in Monongalia County, West Virginia. The river is classified as a warm water fishery and historically supports a variety of fish, including smallmouth bass, sunfish, and muskellunge in all but the lower 6.2 miles (10.0 km) (from Taylortown to Poland Mines, Pennsylvania), which have been devastated by decades of unchecked acid mine drainage (AMD).

In 2007, thanks to the support of an EPA Targeted Watersheds Grant, the Greene County Watershed Alliance and the Friends of Dunkard Creek sought to reclaim part of the lower 6.2 miles (10.0 km) by creating a Passive Treatment System, or constructed wetlands, on the Mathews farm near Poland Mines. At this site, the abandoned Maiden #1 mine dumped over a million gallons of untreated AMD into Dunkard Creek each day.

Working with Stream Restoration, Inc. and public/private partners from across the region, the Alliance created a Passive Treatment System consisting of:

1. An aerobic wetland (shallow water flowing over vegetation). Once established, an aerobic wetland produces large amounts of organic debris. The debris encourages anaerobic bacteria, which can revert sulfate ions into sulfide ions. Sulfide ions can then bind with heavy metal ions (such as iron) to remove them from the water.

2. Limestone ponds and channels. (Limestone, because of its high calcite content, reduces the acidity of AMD naturally.) When combined with man-made wetlands, it creates a self-renewing Passive Treatment System.

In all, close to 12,000 tons of limestone (equal in weight to 8,000 average-sized cars) were used at the Mathews Restoration Site. Volunteers started more than 2,000 plantings from 34 different species of plants, trees and shrubs. The combination of plantings and engineered flow ponds and channels is a great example of how man and nature can work together to reclaim an area from AMD.

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