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Ongoing Restoration Key to Improving Cheat River Water Quality

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Wednesday, June 30, 2021   

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. -- June has been National Rivers Month, and in West Virginia, conservation groups are celebrating the results of decades-long efforts to clean up acid mine drainage from the Cheat River.

Fish can once again be found in the Cheat Canyon, and both Sovern Run and Big Sandy Creek are almost ready to be removed from the state's list of impaired streams.

Stephen Toth, general partner at Blue Gold Development, which has helped with the cleanup project, said the Cheat River is recovering, but treatment should be ongoing to ensure the contamination doesn't return.

"It's something that you basically have to do every 10 to 20 years," Toth explained. "Even though we did a project this year, in about 10 to 15 or 20 years, that's probably going to have to happen again. So, funding is of major importance for this."

In the past two decades, Cheat River restoration efforts have received more than $5 million in support, and research showed between 2000 and 2013, the restoration work reduced acid mine drainage-related pollution in the Cheat watershed by more than one million pounds, according to the Environmental Protection Agency.

Toth added the river cleanup has also boosted local tourism and brought more dollars to small businesses.

"It means so much to the community that lives here, and also tourism, and brings people from out of state," Toth observed. "It's just remarkable what they've done, and I'm very thankful to be a part of this."

Laura Delaney, who owns a brewery in Bruceton Mills, agreed. She said she's watched economic development and quality of life improve with river restoration work.

"I mean, this is a rural farming community," Delaney remarked. "We depend, you know, in so many ways, on having a clean water supply."

Groups like Friends of the Cheat said they next plan to focus on removing the Albright Power Dam on the Cheat River, arguing reconnecting the Cheat will have positive ecological and economic benefits.


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