KANAWHA COUNTY, WV (WOWK) – Students from Marshall University are visiting the Coal River this weekend to test the river conditions.

The Coal River flows 88 miles long and has over 500 streams. Since 2004, the Coal River Group has been helping “bring life back to the Coal River.” Bill Currey is the founder of the group and has been working on keeping the river clean for years.

“It’s probably one of the cleanest rivers in the state of West Virginia,” Currey said.

Testing the water and fish community are a few ways to assess the river’s condition. This weekend, 10 Marshall University students have been camping along the Coal River to help.

“We’ve heard it’s been getting better every year, so we wanted to take a look at it for ourselves and look at some other data taken previously,” said Evan Page, vice president of the American Fisheries Society at Marshall. “And we assume that it’s going to continue getting better.”

This is the second time Marshall’s American Fisheries Society students have done this type of work. They come prepared with testing equipment and nets to assess the fish habitat in the river.

“All of this shows the health of the system. So, macroinvertebrates are really sensitive to water changes, especially pollution, and so, the fact that more are being found means the system is improving,” Page said.

Currey says these tests are vital for the river to stay clean and bring tourism to the community.

“Our Tour de Coal coming up, well we have 2,000 people on the river in one day just to do the Tour de Coal, and all they have to do, they come back saying ‘that’s a beautiful river,’ and it makes us really proud,” said Currey.

While it is a lot of work, it’s a little fun too! The students are doing a variety of tests, but said they were also looking forward to kayaking and fishing during their stay.

The students say they will evaluate all data from this weekend and provide feedback to the Coal River Group and the community on these results.