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Two WV Rivers On the List Of Nation’s Ten Most Endangered

June 2, 2010

CHARLESTON, W. Va. - Two rivers in West Virginia are among the nation's ten most threatened, according to the group American Rivers. The Gauley River is third on the annual list; the Monongahela is number nine. Their challenges are part of a new report, "America's Most Endangered Rivers," released today.

Cindy Rank, who chairs the West Virginia Highlands Conservancy mining committee, says the Gauley has some of the best whitewater in the eastern United States, although pollution from surface mining is starting to encroach.

"There's a lot more mountaintop removal mining – and with that, of course, comes all the problems that are occurring throughout a lot of the more southern part of the state."

From Fairmont to Pittsburgh, threats to the Monongahela include old mining sites and a boom in natural gas drilling. Rank says the death of wildlife in a Mon tributary, Dunkard Creek, shows that pollution can pose risks to an important source of drinking water.

"It was really the death of Dunkard earlier in 2009 that woke people up to the problems of TDS, total dissolved solids."

She also finds it disturbing that even its location, in the heart of a national recreation area, has not been enough to ensure protection for the Gauley.

"There are big problems at the Nicholas/Clay County line, extending closer to the Summersville Lake and the Gauley National Recreation Area – which of course, is highly valued."

State and federal environmental regulators have announced intentions to restrict the amounts of selenium, salt and other minerals that can wash into rivers from mines and gas wells. The coal industry has criticized those plans, but Rank notes any new standards will have to be enforced to protect endangered waterways.

The full report is online at www.americanrivers.org.

Dan Heyman, Public News Service - WV