HELEN — Berry Branch, a small stream that runs through Helen into the Winding Gulf, is flowing black.

According to the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), the discolored water is coming from a discharge pipe from an abandoned Raleigh County mine. The DEP said nearby active mines are all in compliance and not the cause for the discoloration.

In a news release, the DEP said the initial investigation indicates the black water is due to coal dust being carried through the pre-law mine, meaning the mine ceased operation prior to 1977 and has no responsible party. 

The black water has been observed within the Guyandotte River, and as far away as Allen Junction, some seven miles away.

According to the DEP, geologic changes underground can cause underground stagnant pools of mine water to be flushed out of the abandoned mines.

While the investigators have found the discharge which is causing the flow, a large number of DEP employees were in Helen on Monday attempting to find the underground cause of the discoloration.

According to the release, water samples have been collected and DEP biologists are inspecting the impact the black water is having on aquatic life.

In closing, the DEP stated that the discoloration has decreased since it was initially reported Saturday, and that discharge will be monitored "until baseline conditions return."

-- Email: mcombs@register-herald.com; follow on Twitter @mattcombsRH

— Email: wholdren@register-herald.com; follow on Twitter @WendyHoldren

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