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Ecological Risk Assessment for Residual Coal Fly Ash at Watts Bar Reservoir, Tennessee Limited Alteration of Riverine‐reservoir Benthic Invertebrate Community Following Dredging of Ash‐contaminated Sediment

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Benthic invertebrate communities were assessed following the December 2008 release of approximately 4.1 million m3 of coal fly ash from a disposal dredge cell at the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) Kingston Fossil Plant on Watts Bar Reservoir in Roane County, Tennessee. Released ash filled the adjacent embayments and the main channel of the Emory River migrating into reaches of the Emory, Clinch and Tennessee Rivers. Dredging was completed in summer 2010 and the benthic community sampling was conducted in December 2010. This study is part of a series which supported an Ecological Risk Assessment for the Kingston site. Benthic invertebrate communities were sampled at transects spread across approximately 20 miles of river that includes both riverine and reservoir‐like conditions. Community composition was assessed on a grab sample and transect basis across multiple cross‐channel transects to gain an understanding of the response of the benthic community to a fly ash release of this magnitude. This assessment used invertebrate community metrics, similarity analysis, geospatial statistics, and correlations with sediment chemistry and habitat. The community composition was reflective of a reservoir system, with dominant taxa being insect larva, bivalves and aquatic worms. Most community metric results were similar for ash‐impacted areas and upstream reference areas. Variation in the benthic community was correlated more with habitat than with sediment chemistry or residual ash. Other studies have reported that a benthic community can take several years to a decade to recover from ash or ash‐related constituents. Although released ash undoubtedly had some initial impacts on the benthic community in this study, the severity of these effects appears to be limited to the initial smothering of the organisms followed by a rapid response and the initial start of recovery post‐dredging. Integr Environ Assess Manag © 2014 SETAC

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