MarkWest cited in fish kill

LITTLETON – West Virginia environmental regulators on Tuesday cited MarkWest Energy for “conditions not allowable in the waters of the state” following a natural gas liquids spill from one of MarkWest’s pipelines in northern Wetzel County.

The spill occurred last week following a landslide. It has led to a fishkill in Rocky Run, a tributary of Fish Creek, West Virginia Division of Natural Resources District 1 Fishery Biologist Frank Jernejcic said.

Minnows, smallmouth bass and other species of fish died from the spill, Jernejcic said.

“We never will know exactly how many were killed,” he said, noting the DNR will use the wildlife composition of a comparable “reference stream” to estimate the number of dead fish.

“It is a fairly small stream,” he added. “The fish kill was limited to Rocky Run.”

State Department of Environmental Protection spokeswoman Kathy Cosco said officials remain unable to closely examine the Rocky Run area where the liquid was released, as the “vapors are keeping us from getting close.”

Cosco said it appears a landslide affected the pipeline, which then ruptured. She said the spill involved a “liquid gas” and that many natural gas liquids – propane, ethane, butane, pentanes and others – can vaporize when their liquid forms come in contact with water.

Cosco said the hillside remains unstable, in addition to the vapors in the area. She said she was not sure if this was the first time MarkWest received a citation from the DEP.

MarkWest officials did not immediately return messages Tuesday seeking comment. Cosco said she believed one of the company’s workers reported the spill by calling the “spill line.” She said anyone needing to report a spill related to the natural gas industry in West Virginia should call 800-642-3074.

Residents of the Rocky Run area have been concerned about potential hazards from the pipeline break.