The West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection says older residents can remember streams "running red" from acid mine drainage in Monongalia, Preston and Taylor Counties.
The streams were affected by pre-law mining. A state agency is doing what it can to bring these streams back to life and was recognized on a national level.
"This has been a major undertaking for the Abandoned Mine Land Program," said Justin Haymond, an environmental resource specialist with the program. "The program consisted of repairing 19 miles of stream that has been impacted due to acid mine drainage. Numerous metals in the water unable to maintain a fishery or any type of aquatic life."
When the Office of Abandoned Mine Lands started the Three Fork Creek Watershed Restoration Project in 2011, there was only one fish found in the areas it surveyed. Now there are more than 1,000 present without stocking.
Up stream of the treatment facilities, there is a pH balance of about three and a half to four.
"Down stream we average about seven or seven and a half, six and a half, we're in that range," said Jonathon Knight, also an environmental resource specialist. "For fish to survive, roughly between six and eight is the pH range that is needed. We're bumping up that pH range quite a bit by removing that acidity."
The projects have four dosers operating on tributaries of the Three Fork Creek. Each one brings up water from the streams, pulls it through a pipe, and then puts it into a machine that mixes in limestone. This takes out most of the acidity and metals to make the water clearer and more livable for aquatic life.
The Abandoned Mine Land Program actually constructed and operates the systems, but has a lot of help.
"This stream is alive again. There is fishing opportunities again for you," said Haymond. "People are utilizing the water more, it has been cleaned up. Save the Tygart Organization has been very instrumental in helping us with the project, helping to get the project started, helping to keep the watershed clean."
The watershed project was given the Appalachian Regional Award by the National Association of Abandoned Mine Land Programs.