Field and Laboratory Assessment of a Coal Processing Effluent in the Leading Creek Watershed, Meigs County, Ohio
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The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has not recommended water quality criteria (WQC) to protect aquatic life from elevated sodium and sulfate concentrations, such as those associated with the coal-processing effluent of Meigs County Mine #31. This discharge, received by a tributary of the Leading Creek Watershed (SE Ohio), had a mean specific conductivity (SC) of 8,109 (7,750–8,750) μS/cm and total metal concentrations below acute WQC. The mean 48-h LC50 for Ceriodaphnia dubia in the effluent was 6,713 ± 99 μS/cm; mean 48-h survival was 44% for study sites downstream of the effluent. The best indicators of impairment used in this study were Ceriodaphnia fecundity, in situ Corbicula fluminea growth, EPT minus Hydropsychidae (richness and relative abundance), and relative Ephemeroptera abundance. Mayflies, reduced by more than 99% below the effluent, were absent from all but the furthest downstream study site. SC was strongly correlated with Corbicula growth (r = −0.9755, p = 0.0009) and EPT minus Hydropsychidae richness (r = −0.8756, p < 0.0001), suggesting the effluent was primarily responsible for biotic impairment. Our results indicated that SC levels, a measure of dissolved solids, in the Leading Creek Watershed that exceeded ∼3,700 μS/cm impaired sensitive aquatic fauna.
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