Water, Air, & Soil Pollution

, 228:344 | Cite as

Influences of Coal Ash Leachates and Emergent Macrophytes on Water Quality in Wetland Microcosms

  • Leif H. Olson
  • John C. Misenheimer
  • Clay M. Nelson
  • Karen D. Bradham
  • Curtis J. Richardson


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.


Coal combustion residues Fly ash Phytoremediation Juncus effusus Eleocharis quadrangulata Wetland Boron Manganese Molybdenum 

Supplementary material

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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing AG 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  • Leif H. Olson
    • 1
  • John C. Misenheimer
    • 2
  • Clay M. Nelson
    • 3
  • Karen D. Bradham
    • 3
  • Curtis J. Richardson
    • 1
  1. 1.Nicholas School of the EnvironmentDuke University Wetland CenterDurhamUSA
  2. 2.Oak Ridge Institute for Science and EducationResearch Triangle ParkUSA
  3. 3.Public Health Chemistry Branch, Exposure Methods and Measurements Division, National Exposure Research Laboratory, Office of Research and Development, U.S. Environmental Protection AgencyResearch Triangle ParkUSA

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