PRESTON COUNTY, W.Va. — A long dead waterway is coming back to life in Preston County.
After decades of damaging acid mine drainage, signs of aquatic activity have been reported along Muddy Creek, a tributary for the Cheat River.
“It’s wonderful to see,” said Rowlan Greaves, senior staff water engineer for Southwestern Energy, a natural gas production and exploration company with operations in northern West Virginia.
On Friday afternoon, officials with Southwestern Energy were scheduled to join those with the state Department of Environmental Protection to mark the completion of the Muddy Creek Watershed Restoration Project with a ribbon cutting ceremony near Albright.
That public ceremony was set for 1 p.m.
The new T&T Treatment Facility, built on the grounds of the former T&T Fuels Company as part of the first public-private partnership between the DEP and Southwestern, went into full operation in March 2018.
“There’s a generation that has grown up in that area that hasn’t seen anything but the orange stain and the impaired water and we’re seeing results right way,” Greaves told MetroNews.
Mine blowouts in the 1990s at the T&T Mine Complex plus the effects of other past operations like the Preston Energy Mine Complex in the Muddy Creek Watershed, which includes Martin Creek and its tributaries, were the causes of the acid mine drainage, according to the DEP.
In general, the Muddy Creek Watershed Restoration Project allows for the collection and treatment of the polluted water.
Engineers with the DEP developed the treatment system the can treat 6,000,000 gallons of acid mine drainage a day and has capabilities for remote operation and control.
Southwestern’s sponsorship funded a “pipeline” that moves heavy acid mine drainage loads directly to the T&T Treatment Facility.
“It’s the collection and conveyance system that collects that acid mine drainage from multiple points across the watershed and conveys that to that central treatment system and then clean water is returned back to the environment right there at Muddy Creek,” Greaves explained.
Thus far, some of the biggest water quality improvements have been recorded downstream from the treatment facility along the lower 4 miles of Muddy Creek.
Greaves declined to disclose the amount of funding for the conveyance system that was provided through Southwestern’s ECH2O Water Conservation Initiative.
Additionally, the company has committed to covering operating and maintenance costs for the system through at least 2021.
Southwestern has been involved in a similar water restoration project with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service near Clarksburg and those in other states including Pennsylvania, Arkansas and Colorado.
In Preston County, “This project is a way in which we seek to give back to the environment and back to the communities some of that water that we need and that we use,” Greaves said.