SETAC Globe - Environmental Quality Through Science
  10 October 2013
Volume 14 Issue 10

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Ecological Risk and Impacts Relevant to Tennessee and the Region

Jim Markwiese, Environmental Standards, Inc.

While Tennessee has been home to several high-profile ecological risk assessments, such as characterization of the TVA Kingston coal ash release, some of the less well publicized, yet highly relevant risk-related issues within Tennessee and the region warrant attention. This session, which will be held at the upcoming SETAC North America 34th Annual Meeting, brings together a diverse group of speakers covering a range of locally relevant topics, from ecological impacts of energy development in Tennessee and the southeast, analysis of state and federal actions on water pollution, and remediation of the Copper Basin Mining District, to an evaluation of Tennessee's mussel fauna decline across watersheds and recovery strategies to restore the fauna.  SETAC is excited about this session because it helps conference attendees appreciate the importance of national and global trends at the more tractable or local scale of the conference’s host city.

The session is scheduled for Monday morning. Annick Anctil will lead off with a presentation on the potential for and environmental impact of photovoltaic (PV) development in Tennessee, North Carolina, South Carolina and Georgia. The potential for air pollutant reduction and carbon dioxide production from increasing PV energy production as well as other relevant environmental impact will be presented for various types of PV installations. Virginia Dale will follow with a presentation on the ramifications of climate change for Tennessee forests and biofuels production. Next, Colleen Mikelson will talk about correlations between elevated levels of metals and metalloids in soils, and above average incidence of infants born at low birth weight in the historically heavily industrialized southern portions of the city of Chattanooga. Renee Hoyos will follow with a presentation of two water quality regulation case studies: one on surface mining discharge effluent with elevated conductivity and the second on nutrient discharge to an effluent-dominated stream from a municipal sewage treatment plant.

The next two talks will focus on freshwater mussels.  Historically, this region supported the richest freshwater mussel fauna in the world with at least 107 mussel taxa.  Don Hubbs will speak about conservation strategies developed over the past two decades that are aimed at reversing the decline of freshwater mussel species in Tennessee. Greg Curtis Johnson will discuss the status of freshwater mussel assemblages in the Clinch River, which flows from southwestern Virginia through eastern Tennessee. Surveys of mussel community structure over the past three decades have shown catastrophic declines in mussel abundance and diversity adjacent to areas with coal mines and natural gas extraction, while mussel assemblages downstream of this section remain healthy, and some communities upstream appear to be recovering.

Craig Zeller will close the session with a restoration success story built upon unprecedented teamwork.  For 150 years, the Copper Basin Mining District in southeastern Tennessee was host to extensive copper, zinc and iron mining and processing and to sulfuric acid production.  In January 2001, the US EPA, Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation, and Glenn Springs Holdings, Inc. entered into a Memorandum of Understanding that is successfully applying an adaptive management approach with immediate short-term actions to protect the Ocoee River while long-term source control strategies for the basin are designed and implemented.

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