Heredity/Evolution English
The Fly Ash Pandemic and Its Effects on Ecosystems
2017-12-24 00:00:00
Cedric Dent

Recent studies have been revisiting the negative impact that fly ash has on the environment. One engineering study conducted early this month substantiates preexisting observations and hypotheses that the Middle Fork River is eroding at approximately two feet each year on average. The river lies on the side of an embankment opposite several million cubic yards of detrimental coal ash, so advocates in service of the Middle Fork River propose that new steps be taken to protect it.

Similarly, the National Green Tribunal commissioned a study that was published on Sunday, and it reported that the Ennore Creek is changing under the influence of industrial activity, impounding structures and storage. Most of this industrial activity is reportedly the result of ash conveyance yielding coal fly ash pollution, and the impact is most observable in the creek’s ecology, hydrology and topography. The tribunal’s southern zone assessed how coal ash pollution impinges upon Ennore Creek as well as the areas around North Chennai Thermal Power Station. They took prawn, fish and water quality samples and recorded their findings.

The panel that conducted the study was an expert committee of three members, the lead author among them being Sultan Ahmad Ismail, the director of the Ecoscience Research Foundation. The other authors — Balaji Narasimhan, IIT associate professor of the Department of Civil Engineering and Madras Christian College professor D. Narasimhan of the botany department who has since retired — warn in the report that. if the estuarine ecosystem degrades any further, multiple inland habitats will become increasingly susceptible to negative effects of harsh weather and subaqueous events.

The assessment confirmed the threat of salinity intrusion, which is found in the transition zone between the coastal saline areas and the inland freshwater areas according to the report. The panel said that Tangedco underestimated how much fly ash settled there. The study says Tangedco’s estimate “appears to be only less than 2% of total fly ash volume that is in discrepancy. Still, 98 percent of fly ash has to be accounted for and recovered from the site.” The real extent of fly ash proved to be more than 344.39 hectares, and the fly ash in canals, rivers and other bodies of water is expected to be about 309 hectares.

“As per a note dated July 31 submitted by Tangedco to the tribunal, the total estimated quantum of settled fly ash is 2,18,257 cubic meters. However, this is only less than two percent of the total fly ash volume actually spilled. More than 98 percent of fly ash has to be accounted for and recovered from the site,” the report reads. “10.01 [cubic meters] to 12.01 [cubic meters] more (in excess) fly ash is present in the Dykes than what is reported by [North Chennai Thermal Power Station]. This means either no spill has happened (which is contrary to the observation on the site) or utilization, as reported by NCTPS, has not actually taken place or more fly ash than reported by NCTPS has taken place during the power generation,” the report says.

The committee’s estimate of the field’s fly ash volume is over 9.8 million cubic meters, which they calculated by way of a field survey conducted between September and December. They suggested that a drone survey be conducted as well as a meticulous field campaign in addition to the field survey already done. They took five samples from the Kosasthalaiyar, and each contained mercury, lead, arsenic, and selenium.

These assessments and in-depth studies parallel similar investigations documented and published on December 7. Stantec Consulting Services conducted the study of the embankment between the Middle Fork River and the millions of cubic yards coal ash for Dynegy Inc. The report explains that the embankment stretches as wide as 19 feet in some places, and they estimated the rate of erosion ranging anywhere from a foot to 3.6 feet of growth each year.

“If the IEPA won’t hold a public hearing on a plan that could place the river and Vermilion County residents at risk, we will,” according to Lan Richart, Eco-Justice Collaborative co-director. Proponents of river protection are trying to convince the IEPA to require coal ash. Kristin Camp, an associate of the citizen advocacy group, Protect the Middle Fork, adds, “A decision to permanently leave millions of cubic yards of toxic waste in three unlined pits built in the Middle Fork River’s floodplain could have long-term implications for Vermilion County and Illinois taxpayers.”

The reality of fly ash-related problems for various ecosystems all over the world is that fly ash comes from a variety of sources and is commonly difficult to stop. Environmentalists aim to collaborate on involved strategies to ash-proof an area under siege from fly ash. “Our direction is that additional riverbank stabilization work in conjunction with caps would provide protection to both water resources,” according to David Byford of Dynegy. “We take this very seriously because we understand the value of the river.”

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