John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.

Assessment of Trace‐Element Impacts on Agricultural Use of Water from the Dan River following the Eden Coal Ash Release

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Catastrophic events require rapid, scientifically sound decision‐making to mitigate impacts on human welfareandthe environment. The objective of this study was to analyze potential impacts of coal‐ash‐derived trace elements on agriculture following a 35,000‐tonne release of coal ash into the Dan River at the Duke Energy Steam Station in Eden, NC. We performed scenario calculations to assess the potential for excessive trace‐element loading to soils via irrigation and flooding with Dan River water, uptake of trace elements by crops, and livestock consumption of trace elements via drinking water. Concentrations of 13 trace elements measured in Dan River water samples within 4 kilometers of the release site declined sharply after the release and were equivalent within 5 days to measurements taken upriver. Mass‐balance calculations based on estimates of soil trace‐element concentrations and the nominal river‐water concentrations indicated that irrigation or flooding with 25 cm of Dan River water would increase soil concentrations of all trace elements by less than 0.5%. Calculations of potential increases of trace elements in corn grain and silage, fescue, and tobacco leaves suggested that As, Cr, Se, Sr, and V were elements of most concern. Concentrations of trace elements measured in river water following the ash release never exceeded adopted standards for livestock drinking water. Based on our analyses, we present guidelines for safe usage of Dan River water to diminish negative impacts of trace elements on soils and crop production. In general, the approach we describe here may serve as a basis for rapid assessment of environmental and agricultural risks associated with any similar types of releases that arise in the future. This article is protected by copyright. All rights reserved

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