Beyond Selenium: Coal Combustion Residuals Lead to Multielement Enrichment in Receiving Lake Food Webs.
Effluents from coal-fired power plant ash ponds are a major source of environmental contamination, annually loading more than a million metric tons of pollutants to aquatic ecosystems in the United States alone. Though this waste stream is characterized by elevated concentrations of numerous inorganic constituents, decades of previous research effort have focused on the ecotoxicological consequences of a single stressor: selenium. In this study, we compared concentrations of 10 trace elements among three North Carolina reservoirs with varying burdens following decades of coal combustion residual (CCR) inputs. Along this pollution gradient, we examined (1) environmental compartment-specific trace element enrichment relative to reference lake levels and (2) differences in CCR accumulation patterns among abiotic and biotic compartments. We report significant multivariate differences between CCR-receiving and reference lakes for surface water, pore water, sediment, and fish tissues as well as differences in CCR accumulation among North Carolina resident fish species. Multiple-element enrichment across receiving lake compartments additionally highlighted that CCR pollution is a mixtures contamination issue. Our results inform the ongoing discussion about effective regulation of impaired water bodies and identify important questions that might guide the monitoring of these systems as they recover.
Brandt, JE; Simonin, M; Di Giulio, RT; Bernhardt, ES
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