Long-Term Benthic Macroinvertebrate Community Monitoring to Assess Pollution Abatement Effectiveness
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The benthic macroinvertebrate community of East Fork Poplar Creek (EFPC) in East Tennessee was monitored for 18 years to evaluate the effectiveness of a water pollution control program implemented at a major United States (U.S.) Department of Energy facility. Several actions were implemented to reduce and control releases of pollutants into the headwaters of the stream. Four of the most significant actions were implemented during different time periods, which allowed assessment of each action. Macroinvertebrate samples were collected annually in April from three locations in EFPC (EFK24, EFK23, and EFK14) and two nearby reference streams from 1986 through 2003. Significant improvements occurred in the macroinvertebrate community at the headwater sites (EFK24 and EFK23) after implementation of each action, while changes detected 9 km further downstream (EFK14) could not be clearly attributed to any of the actions. Because the stream was impacted at its origin, invertebrate recolonization was primarily limited to aerial immigration, thus, recovery has been slow. As recovery progressed, abundances of small pollution-tolerant taxa (e.g., Orthocladiinae chironomids) decreased and longer lived taxa colonized (e.g., hydropsychid caddisflies, riffle beetles, Baetis). While assessments lasting three to four years may be long enough to detect a response to new pollution controls at highly impacted locations, more time may be needed to understand the full effects. Studies on the effectiveness of pollution controls can be improved if impacted and reference sites are selected to maximize spatial and temporal trending, and if a multidisciplinary approach is used to broadly assess environmental responses (e.g., water quality trends, invertebrate and fish community assessments, toxicity testing, etc.).