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Influences of Coal Ash Leachates and Emergent Macrophytes on Water Quality in Wetland Microcosms
Olson, L., J. Misenheimer, C. Nelson, K. Bradham, AND C. Richardson. Influences of Coal Ash Leachates and Emergent Macrophytes on Water Quality in Wetland Microcosms. WATER, AIR AND SOIL POLLUTION:FOCUS. Springer, New York, NY, 228:344, (2017).
Increasing global electricity demand has led to expanding and diversifying energy sources, but coal is still the leading source of energy in the world, providing 40% of heat and electricity production (WCA 2014). Advances in coal burning technology have led to reduced emissions from power plants, but have been accompanied by increased production and shifts in the chemical composition of coal combustion residue (CCR), commonly referred to as “coal ash” (Dellantonio et al 2010). CCR can contain a variety of leachable, potentially toxic trace elements including aluminum (Al), iron (Fe), arsenic (As), boron (B), cadmium (Cd), chromium (Cr), copper (Cu), lead (Pb), manganese (Mn), mercury (Hg), molybdenum (Mo), selenium (Se) and thallium (Tl), among others (Izquierdo & Querol 2012; Cherry & Guthrie 1977). Surface water impoundments, also
The storage of coal combustion residue (CCR) in surface water impoundments may have an impact on nearby water quality and aquatic ecosystems. CCR contains leachable trace elements that can enter nearby waters through spills and monitored discharge. It is important, therefore, to understand their environmental fate in affected systems. This experiment examined trace element leachability into freshwater from fly ash (FA), the most common form of CCR. The effects on water quality of FA derived from both high and low sulfur coal sources as well as the influences of two different emergent macrophytes, Juncus effusus and Eleocharis quadrangulata, were evaluated in wetland microcosms. FA leachate dosings increased water electric conductivity (EC), altered pH, and, most notably, elevated the concentrations of boron (B), molybdenum (Mo), and manganese (Mn). The presence of either macrophyte species helped reduce elevated EC, and B, Mo, and Mn concentrations over time, relative to microcosms containing no plants. B and Mo appeared to bioaccumulate in the plant tissue from the water when elevated by FA dosing, while Mn was not higher in plants dosed with FA leachates. The results of this study indicate that emergent macrophytes could help ameliorate downstream water contamination from CCR storage facilities and could potentially be utilized in wetland filtration systems to treat CCR wastewater before discharge. Additionally, measuring elevated B and Mo in aquatic plants may have potential as a monitoring tool for downstream CCR contamination.