Deckers Creek isn’t the only stream and watershed in the state of West Virginia to be contaminated with environmental pollutants, its happening all over the state; and for different reasons. Acid mine drainage (AMD) is the biggest cause of pollutants in the Deckers Creek Watershed, but across other regions of the state, there are different pollutants affecting streams and rivers, acid rain being one in particular. The good news, just like with Deckers Creek, the state and federal governments have and are taking appropriate measures to control and ultimately fix these problems.
Two tributaries, Sugar Creek and Dogway Fork, in southeastern West Virginia, have been affected by acid rain deposition. Sugar Creek is a tributary of the Williams River in Pocahontas County, and Dogway Fork is a tributary of the Cranberry River which spans both Pocahontas and Webster Counties. Both ultimately drain into the Gauley River, which is famous for being West Virginia’s best rivers for white water rafting and is ranked as one of the best on the east coast. Other than being famous for white water rafting, both of the rivers draining into the Gauley River sustain year-round trout populations and are areas for human water recreation, including fishing and swimming.
Acid deposition, most commonly referred to as acid rain; whether it be rain, snow, sleet, hail, or any other forms of precipitation are naturally slightly acidic because of chemical reactions that occur with carbon dioxide and other natural substances in our atmosphere. The problem is that these acidity levels can be increased by additional air pollution that is human-induced. Acid rain occurs when human-induced emissions of sulfur dioxide and oxides of nitrogen react with oxygen, oxidants, and water in our atmosphere; producing sulfuric or nitric acid in the precipitation.
The problems with acid deposition most commonly effects the aquatic ecosystems within these rivers and streams, but it is also possible to be harmful to humans as well.
It harms fish populations by killing individual fish, as well as harming their spawning locations, which can reduce fish populations, as well as ultimately result in the elimination of fish populations from certain bodies of water, decreasing biodiversity. Biodiversity is important in these aquatic ecosystems, as it is in any ecosystem because it is the circle of life, because other species whether it be plants, animals, or other aquatic organisms require the presence of everything natural to its particular environment.
Acid rain can cause harm to humans in lots of ways, but I am going to focus two specifics. It isn’t harmful directly, swimming in bodies of water contaminated with these acids would feel the same as swimming in a clean body of water. But when inhaled, it can cause heart and lung problems that lead to premature death. On another note, looking back to the biodiversity and how it makes the ecosystem unbalanced, it can cause bacteria in the water that can also be harmful to humans if consumed or entered into the body accidentally.
Looking back at the tributaries of Sugar Creek and Dogway Fork, the United States Environmental Protection Agency (US EPA), along with the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection (WV DEP), and the West Virginia Department of Natural Resources (WV DNR) took both of them off of the state’s impaired waters list in 2006. in 1997, both creeks shared a com pH level of 3.7-3.8, and the state’s water criterion for the stream’s pH was designated to be 6.0 to 9.0.
These departments and agencies fixed this problem by dumping massive amounts of limestone into the streams, but that still doesn’t mean the problem has gone away forever. But as of 2006, both tributaries shared common pH levels.
Sugar Creek was resting at a pH level of 6.4 and 7.0 (Dogway Fork). Even though these tributaries are above the state’s water criterion for pH levels, they are still sitting fairly close to the border. Automobiles and utility factories are the main sources for acid rain emissions.
This is where the topic gets political, because what we have to do to maintain a healthy pH level in these streams are up to the state and federal governments legislation. Sure, we can keep dumping massive tons of limestone in them, over and over again, racking up state and federal funds, or they can make legislation that forces these emissions to stop, or search for alternative solutions.
I will be interested to see what our government does to prevent these emissions to keep occurring. “Because if the acid rain keeps destroying our environment, it will eventually destroy us as well.”