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!
Scientists team up on study to save endangered African penguins
16.11.2017 | Florida Atlantic University
Climate change: Urban trees are growing faster worldwide
13.11.2017 | Technische Universität München
The WHO reports an estimated 429,000 malaria deaths each year. The disease mostly affects tropical and subtropical regions and in particular the African continent. The Fraunhofer Institute for Silicate Research ISC teamed up with the Fraunhofer Institute for Molecular Biology and Applied Ecology IME and the Institute of Tropical Medicine at the University of Tübingen for a new test method to detect malaria parasites in blood. The idea of the research project “NanoFRET” is to develop a highly sensitive and reliable rapid diagnostic test so that patient treatment can begin as early as possible.
Malaria is caused by parasites transmitted by mosquito bite. The most dangerous form of malaria is malaria tropica. Left untreated, it is fatal in most cases....
The formation of stars in distant galaxies is still largely unexplored. For the first time, astron-omers at the University of Geneva have now been able to closely observe a star system six billion light-years away. In doing so, they are confirming earlier simulations made by the University of Zurich. One special effect is made possible by the multiple reflections of images that run through the cosmos like a snake.
Today, astronomers have a pretty accurate idea of how stars were formed in the recent cosmic past. But do these laws also apply to older galaxies? For around a...
Just because someone is smart and well-motivated doesn't mean he or she can learn the visual skills needed to excel at tasks like matching fingerprints, interpreting medical X-rays, keeping track of aircraft on radar displays or forensic face matching.
That is the implication of a new study which shows for the first time that there is a broad range of differences in people's visual ability and that these...
Computer Tomography (CT) is a standard procedure in hospitals, but so far, the technology has not been suitable for imaging extremely small objects. In PNAS, a team from the Technical University of Munich (TUM) describes a Nano-CT device that creates three-dimensional x-ray images at resolutions up to 100 nanometers. The first test application: Together with colleagues from the University of Kassel and Helmholtz-Zentrum Geesthacht the researchers analyzed the locomotory system of a velvet worm.
During a CT analysis, the object under investigation is x-rayed and a detector measures the respective amount of radiation absorbed from various angles....
The quantum world is fragile; error correction codes are needed to protect the information stored in a quantum object from the deteriorating effects of noise. Quantum physicists in Innsbruck have developed a protocol to pass quantum information between differently encoded building blocks of a future quantum computer, such as processors and memories. Scientists may use this protocol in the future to build a data bus for quantum computers. The researchers have published their work in the journal Nature Communications.
Future quantum computers will be able to solve problems where conventional computers fail today. We are still far away from any large-scale implementation,...
15.11.2017 | Event News
15.11.2017 | Event News
30.10.2017 | Event News
22.11.2017 | Business and Finance
22.11.2017 | Physics and Astronomy
22.11.2017 | Physics and Astronomy