Spatial differences in trace element bioaccumulation in turtles exposed to a partially remediated coal fly ash spill
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Large-scale releases of environmental contaminants from industrial facilities can cause considerable damage to surrounding ecosystems and require remediation. The expense and/or undesirable environmental side effects of physical removal may constrain remediation efforts. In 2008, approximately 4.1 million m3 of fly ash were released into the Emory River at a coal-burning power plant in Kingston, Tennessee, USA. Approximately 390 000 m3 of fly ash were not removed (hereafter "residual ash"), to avoid disturbing underlying legacy contamination from unrelated historical industrial activity. In 2011 and 2012, the authors measured trace element concentrations in an assemblage of freshwater turtles in 2 rivers impacted by the spill and in a third river that was unaffected. Concentrations of arsenic, copper, iron, mercury, manganese, selenium, and zinc were higher in turtles from rivers affected by the spill but low relative to concentrations known to be toxic to other vertebrates. Concentrations of some trace elements decreased with distance from the original spill site but were not strongly affected by nearby volumes of residual ash. Among-species differences in trace element bioaccumulation and/or the relatively low spatial resolution of available data on residual ash volumes may have obscured this effect. The results suggest that the spill influenced turtle bioaccumulation of trace elements but that distance from the spill site may be a more important factor than residual ash in influencing postremediation bioaccumulation. Environ Toxicol Chem 2017;36:201-211. © 2016 SETAC.
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