Pollution kills Turtle Creek trout stocking plans
The state will not stock Turtle Creek with trout this spring because of deadly aluminum pollution that has discharged into the stream from abandoned underground mines in Westmoreland County.
The Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission does not plan to stock Turtle Creek with brown and rainbow trout near the Saunders Station Road bridge in Penn Township on Wednesday, as had been previously scheduled, because of the pollution, said Eric Levis, a commission spokesman.
The commission’s fisheries staff had taken water samples before making its final decision on stocking the creek.
With the opening of trout season set for Saturday, the commission is not planning to stock another stream as a substitute for Turtle Creek, Levis said.
Area Fisheries Manager Rick Lorson anticipates that Turtle Creek will return to its previous conditions this summer and be ready for the stocking of trout in 2019, Levis said. But, if it does not return to fish-safe conditions by mid-summer, “then we will look for an alternate stocking spot,” Levis said.
Turtle Creek has been an excellent first day fishing spot, said Bill Gavrish of Irwin, a member of the Trafford Sportsman Club who also has helped with the stocking of the fish on that stream.
“I am hopeful that they will be able to stock later this year as part of the inseason stocking program. Hopefully some type of mine clean up or remediation could also be looked at to avoid this in the future,” Gavrish said.
The crystal clear sheen of aluminum pollution – some of it turning milky blue as it mixes with other minerals – came to light last week when the Turtle Creek Watershed Association explained how the stream was being polluted from Export to Trafford.
Robert Cronauer, watershed program manager for the Westmoreland Conservation District, said most of the mine drainage is around Export. Aluminum is most dangerous to fish when it is completely dissolved and the water looks clear, he said.
The aluminum has flowed into the creek because the level of the groundwater in the abandoned mines has risen with the large amount of precipitation over the past few months. The acidic water in the mine dissolves more metals from the rock, exposing rocks with aluminum and magnesium, said Cronauer, associate board member of the Turtle Creek Watershed Association.
Joe Napsha is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at 724-836-5252 or [email protected].