By: Ashley Conley
With the naked eye alone, it’s not always easy to comprehend what’s bubbling on or under the surface of a body of water. But right now in Monongalia County, it’s more visually evident than ever that some popular water sources are suffering from substantial pollution.
“For example, Deckers Creek near Marilla Park can run orange from acid mine drainage,” said Reed College of Media assistant professor Emily Corio, who co-created the WVU StreamLab Project that allows students to monitor water quality on their own with DIY devices. “(The water) is not inviting . . . and in my opinion, I think the appearance of area waterways impacts the community’s desire to engage in water activities.”
Loaded with beautiful rocks and a handful of waterfalls, the Deckers Creek tributary should be a welcoming body for fishermen, personal boaters (like kayakers) and those who enjoy taking strolls down the adjacent walking trail, but the continued spread of pollution has began to alter its beauty and damage its intriguing essence.
According to deckerscreek.org – a site dedicated to the Creek’s conservation — acid mine drainage (from West Virginia coal mines) is the most common pollutant to the tributary, but it’s not the only one. Stormwater runoff, straight pipes, sewage overflows, illegal dumping and hazardous waste have created a potentially toxic environment for both humans and wildlife.
Would YOU be comfortable partaking in recreational activities in or around a waterway polluted by all these things?
Connor Cunningham, a sophomore at WVU double majoring in wildlife and fisheries and minoring in conservation and environmental protection, says a host of popular public access points to waterways in the Morgantown area are also experiencing rapid pollution, which is likely deterring students and residents from partaking in fishing, which is something he does frequently.
“Deckers creek, the Morgantown Lock and Dam, and the Mon Power Plant all have problems with storm pollution that brings pollutants and trash into their systems,” Cunningham said. “The (water near) the power plant is interesting because they dump warm water into the river and fish tend to stay near it when it’s colder (which can harm their natural balance). There’s also a sewer that empties into the river, which is pretty gross.”
Gross seems like quite the understatement. Luckily, a few local groups are doing everything they can to help clean up these invaluable bodies of water.
“Friends of Deckers Creek does a pretty good job at cleaning that stream but it’s pretty hard as it’s such a big creek and runs through the heart of Morgantown,” Cunningham said. “The WVU Fly Fishing Club has also helped clean it up before.”
Both of those organization’s websites describe them as conservation-oriented with a common goal — to preserve and protect.
Professor Corio strongly believes that students and all people who live in or visit the Morgantown area can have a personal hand in the conservation process.
“People do contribute directly to pollution in the waterways and litter is one example,” she said. “They can also be part of the solution by helping to clean up litter and by not littering in the first place.”
Cover Image: uppermon.org
Ashley Conley is a senior journalism student at WVU. She aspires to become a writer or reporter in the sports industry upon graduation. You can follow her on Twitter @ashleyconleyyy.