Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:


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

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:

More articles from Ecology, The Environment and Conservation:

nachricht Invasive Insects Cost the World Billions Per Year
04.10.2016 | University of Adelaide

nachricht Malaysia's unique freshwater mussels in danger
27.09.2016 | The University of Nottingham Malaysia Campus

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: New 3-D wiring technique brings scalable quantum computers closer to reality

Researchers from the Institute for Quantum Computing (IQC) at the University of Waterloo led the development of a new extensible wiring technique capable of controlling superconducting quantum bits, representing a significant step towards to the realization of a scalable quantum computer.

"The quantum socket is a wiring method that uses three-dimensional wires based on spring-loaded pins to address individual qubits," said Jeremy Béjanin, a PhD...

Im Focus: Scientists develop a semiconductor nanocomposite material that moves in response to light

In a paper in Scientific Reports, a research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute describes a novel light-activated phenomenon that could become the basis for applications as diverse as microscopic robotic grippers and more efficient solar cells.

A research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) has developed a revolutionary, light-activated semiconductor nanocomposite material that can be used...

Im Focus: Diamonds aren't forever: Sandia, Harvard team create first quantum computer bridge

By forcefully embedding two silicon atoms in a diamond matrix, Sandia researchers have demonstrated for the first time on a single chip all the components needed to create a quantum bridge to link quantum computers together.

"People have already built small quantum computers," says Sandia researcher Ryan Camacho. "Maybe the first useful one won't be a single giant quantum computer...

Im Focus: New Products - Highlights of COMPAMED 2016

COMPAMED has become the leading international marketplace for suppliers of medical manufacturing. The trade fair, which takes place every November and is co-located to MEDICA in Dusseldorf, has been steadily growing over the past years and shows that medical technology remains a rapidly growing market.

In 2016, the joint pavilion by the IVAM Microtechnology Network, the Product Market “High-tech for Medical Devices”, will be located in Hall 8a again and will...

Im Focus: Ultra-thin ferroelectric material for next-generation electronics

'Ferroelectric' materials can switch between different states of electrical polarization in response to an external electric field. This flexibility means they show promise for many applications, for example in electronic devices and computer memory. Current ferroelectric materials are highly valued for their thermal and chemical stability and rapid electro-mechanical responses, but creating a material that is scalable down to the tiny sizes needed for technologies like silicon-based semiconductors (Si-based CMOS) has proven challenging.

Now, Hiroshi Funakubo and co-workers at the Tokyo Institute of Technology, in collaboration with researchers across Japan, have conducted experiments to...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>



Event News

#IC2S2: When Social Science meets Computer Science - GESIS will host the IC2S2 conference 2017

14.10.2016 | Event News

Agricultural Trade Developments and Potentials in Central Asia and the South Caucasus

14.10.2016 | Event News

World Health Summit – Day Three: A Call to Action

12.10.2016 | Event News

Latest News

Novel mechanisms of action discovered for the skin cancer medication Imiquimod

21.10.2016 | Life Sciences

Second research flight into zero gravity

21.10.2016 | Life Sciences

How Does Friendly Fire Happen in the Pancreas?

21.10.2016 | Life Sciences

More VideoLinks >>>