Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

So far, fish appear to be healthy after fly ash spill

10.06.2010
Fish exposed to fly ash at the site of the Tennessee Valley Authority coal ash spill are faring better than some expected, researchers have learned.

Oak Ridge National Laboratory in collaboration with TVA has found that while small amounts of some contaminants from the December 2008 fly ash spill have been taken up by fish in the Clinch and Emory rivers, to-date, the fish collected downstream from the spill appear healthy relative to fish from unimpacted sites.

"We are looking to see if there has been an effect on overall fish health and reproductive condition, and so far, such effects have not been evident," said Mark Peterson, leader of ORNL Environmental Sciences Division's Ecological Assessment Team and the Aquatic Ecology Laboratory.

After the spill deposited 5.4 million cubic yards of coal ash into the Emory River and an embayment adjacent to the Kingston Fossil Plant, the public was concerned that the ash and associated chemicals, particularly arsenic and selenium, could be a health hazard to local residents and also to fish and wildlife.

Likewise, Peterson and a team of ecologists in ESD, including Marshall Adams, Mark Greeley and John Smith, were interested in seeing whether trace components of the ash — such as selenium, which has been found to be toxic to fish and wildlife in large amounts — would be found in insect and fish populations immediately following the spill and for some time after the spill.

A team led by Adams was able to get into the field quickly and collected fish as early as February 2009 at sites both downstream and upstream from the spill. Species tested for contaminant uptake and fish health include bluegill, largemouth bass, channel catfish, white crappie and gizzard shad.

It is the experience assessing the legacy of contaminant deposits in the Clinch River and Watts Bar Reservoir from Department of Energy activities decades ago that provides the ORNL team with the expertise to evaluate changes in ecological conditions in these waters, researchers noted.

"We've been sampling fish from Watts Bar Reservoir since the 1980s to evaluate the impact of Department of Energy facilities, so we have some historical record of regional conditions prior to the spill," Peterson said.

However, while there are historical records from DOE-sponsored studies in some locations for which to compare water quality and fish tissue concentrations pre- and post-spill, determining potential risk to the health of fish populations is more complicated.

"Fish populations can be impacted by a range of factors at this site that are unrelated to the spill, including food and habitat availability, variations in water quality characteristics, presence of historical contaminants such as mercury and PCBs, and interactions with other biota in the reservoir," Peterson said.

Further complicating interpretation of fish health condition is that some fly ash-related contaminants may not cause effects that can be easily measured immediately after the spill. Contaminants like selenium are accumulated via the food chain and it can take some time for fish to reach equilibrium with the environment, or for contaminant exposure to result in measurable negative impacts to fish populations. The ongoing second year of fish sampling will be especially important in assessing the longer-term environmental impacts of the spill, researchers said.

A key contaminant of concern is selenium, which at high concentrations is known to cause reproductive problems in fish, including impacts to fish early life stages. A project led by Mark Greeley will be evaluating fish embryos and larvae exposed to fly ash in large laboratory tanks. Beginning in May and extending through the summer, this study will take up a large part of ORNL's 9,000-square-foot Aquatic Ecology Laboratory and is unique in its attempt to evaluate exposure and effects over longer time scales in a controlled environment.

TVA, which is engaged with ORNL and multiple university and government organizations in monitoring and assessing the effects of the fly ash spill on the environment, is providing the funds to ORNL to continue research this year.

By conducting integrated and multidisciplinary field and laboratory studies, ORNL scientists expect to provide a better understanding of the ecological risks of fly ash exposure. These regional studies will provide insights relative to scientists' broader understanding of the environmental effects and responses of fish and wildlife to various energy alternatives, such as coal-fired power plants.

ORNL is managed by UT-Battelle for the Department of Energy's Office of Science.

Katie Freeman | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.ornl.gov

More articles from Ecology, The Environment and Conservation:

nachricht When corals eat plastics
24.05.2018 | Justus-Liebig-Universität Gießen

nachricht Dispersal of Fish Eggs by Water Birds – Just a Myth?
19.02.2018 | Universität Basel

All articles from Ecology, The Environment and Conservation >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Powerful IT security for the car of the future – research alliance develops new approaches

The more electronics steer, accelerate and brake cars, the more important it is to protect them against cyber-attacks. That is why 15 partners from industry and academia will work together over the next three years on new approaches to IT security in self-driving cars. The joint project goes by the name Security For Connected, Autonomous Cars (SecForCARs) and has funding of €7.2 million from the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research. Infineon is leading the project.

Vehicles already offer diverse communication interfaces and more and more automated functions, such as distance and lane-keeping assist systems. At the same...

Im Focus: Molecular switch will facilitate the development of pioneering electro-optical devices

A research team led by physicists at the Technical University of Munich (TUM) has developed molecular nanoswitches that can be toggled between two structurally different states using an applied voltage. They can serve as the basis for a pioneering class of devices that could replace silicon-based components with organic molecules.

The development of new electronic technologies drives the incessant reduction of functional component sizes. In the context of an international collaborative...

Im Focus: LZH showcases laser material processing of tomorrow at the LASYS 2018

At the LASYS 2018, from June 5th to 7th, the Laser Zentrum Hannover e.V. (LZH) will be showcasing processes for the laser material processing of tomorrow in hall 4 at stand 4E75. With blown bomb shells the LZH will present first results of a research project on civil security.

At this year's LASYS, the LZH will exhibit light-based processes such as cutting, welding, ablation and structuring as well as additive manufacturing for...

Im Focus: Self-illuminating pixels for a new display generation

There are videos on the internet that can make one marvel at technology. For example, a smartphone is casually bent around the arm or a thin-film display is rolled in all directions and with almost every diameter. From the user's point of view, this looks fantastic. From a professional point of view, however, the question arises: Is that already possible?

At Display Week 2018, scientists from the Fraunhofer Institute for Applied Polymer Research IAP will be demonstrating today’s technological possibilities and...

Im Focus: Explanation for puzzling quantum oscillations has been found

So-called quantum many-body scars allow quantum systems to stay out of equilibrium much longer, explaining experiment | Study published in Nature Physics

Recently, researchers from Harvard and MIT succeeded in trapping a record 53 atoms and individually controlling their quantum state, realizing what is called a...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

In focus: Climate adapted plants

25.05.2018 | Event News

Save the date: Forum European Neuroscience – 07-11 July 2018 in Berlin, Germany

02.05.2018 | Event News

Invitation to the upcoming "Current Topics in Bioinformatics: Big Data in Genomics and Medicine"

13.04.2018 | Event News

 
Latest News

In focus: Climate adapted plants

25.05.2018 | Event News

Flow probes from the 3D printer

25.05.2018 | Machine Engineering

Less is more? Gene switch for healthy aging found

25.05.2018 | Life Sciences

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>