Impact assessment of dredging to remove coal fly ash at the Tennessee Valley Authority Kingston Fossil plant using fathead minnow elutriate exposures



On December 22, 2008, failure of an earthen containment structure resulted in the release of approximately 4.1 million m3 of coal fly ash into the Emory River and the surrounding area from the Tennessee Valley Authority Kingston Fossil Plant near Kingston, Tennessee, USA. The purpose of the present study was to assess the potential of dredging activities performed to remove the fly ash from the river to result in increased risk to pelagic fish, with special consideration of mobilization of metals. Elutriates were created using two sources of fly ash by bubbling with air over 10 d. This elutriate preparation method was designed to represent worst-case conditions for oxidation, metal release, and dissolution. Larval and juvenile Pimephales promelas underwent 10-d exposures to these elutriates. Larval end points included survival and biomass, and juvenile end points included survival, length, biomass, liver somatic index, and bioaccumulation. No significant toxicity was observed. Bioaccumulation of metals in juveniles was found to be primarily attributable to metals associated with particles in the gut. Results suggest little potential for toxicity to related fish species due to fly ash removal dredging activities given the extreme conditions represented by the elutriates in the present study. Environ. Toxicol. Chem. 2013;32:822–830. © 2013 SETAC