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This article in JEQ

  1. Vol. 32 No. 2, p. 654-661
    Received: June 3, 2002

    * Corresponding author(s): jskousen@wvu.edu
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Water Quality Changes in a Polluted Stream over a Twenty-Five-Year Period

  1. Jason Stewart and
  2. Jeff Skousen *
  1. Division of Plant and Soil Sciences, West Virginia Univ., Morgantown, WV 26506-6108


The Deckers Creek watershed in northern West Virginia (USA), containing a land area of 166 km2 (63 mi2), has a long history of industrial development and attendant environmental abuses from both land and water pollution practices. The water in Deckers Creek was sampled in 1974 at 29 locations along the main stem and resampled in 1999–2000 to determine water quality changes over this 25-year period. Water samples were analyzed for pH, acidity, alkalinity, iron, and calcium at both times, while aluminum, manganese, zinc, and fecal coliform (FC) bacteria densities were added in 1999–2000. Water at almost all sampling points showed lower acidity and metal contents in 1999–2000 compared with 1974. Water pH increased at the mouth from 5.4 in 1974 to 6.0 in 1999–2000. Acidity and iron concentrations were decreased an average of 70% in the upper stretches of the creek. However, one major untreated point source of water from an abandoned underground mining complex continues to degrade the quality of the creek in its lower stretches. In the upper section, the water quality in Deckers Creek has improved due to decreased surface and underground coal mining activities, reclamation of abandoned and recently permitted surface mined lands, and natural healing of past land use scars from timbering and mining over time. The decrease in mineral extraction activities and the reclamation of disturbed lands has occurred due to the passage and enforcement of water quality and land reclamation laws and regulations. More time and additional reclamation projects will continue to enhance the water quality in the creek. Improved water chemistry in the majority of the creek, however, shows the previously unnoticeable biological contamination from sewage inputs.

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Copyright © 2003. American Society of Agronomy, Crop Science Society of America, Soil Science SocietyPublished in J. Environ. Qual.32:654–661.