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01.06.2011 | Ausgabe 6/2011

Environmental Management 6/2011

Twenty-Five Years of Ecological Recovery of East Fork Poplar Creek: Review of Environmental Problems and Remedial Actions

Zeitschrift:
Environmental Management > Ausgabe 6/2011
Autoren:
James M. Loar, Arthur J. Stewart, John G. Smith
Wichtige Hinweise
The submitted manuscript has been authored by a contractor of the US Government under contract DE-AC05-00OR22725. Accordingly, the US Government retains a nonexclusive, royalty-free license to publish or reproduce the published form of this contribution, or allow others to do so, for US Government purposes.

Abstract

In May 1985, a National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System permit was issued for the Department of Energy’s Y-12 National Security Complex (Y-12 Complex) in Oak Ridge, Tennessee, USA, allowing discharge of effluents to East Fork Poplar Creek (EFPC). The effluents ranged from large volumes of chlorinated once-through cooling water and cooling tower blow-down to smaller discharges of treated and untreated process wastewaters, which contained a mixture of heavy metals, organics, and nutrients, especially nitrates. As a condition of the permit, a Biological Monitoring and Abatement Program (BMAP) was developed to meet two major objectives: demonstrate that the established effluent limitations were protecting the classified uses of EFPC, and document the ecological effects resulting from implementing a Water Pollution Control Program at the Y-12 Complex. The second objective is the primary focus of the other papers in this special series. This paper provides a history of pollution and the remedial actions that were implemented; describes the geographic setting of the study area; and characterizes the physicochemical attributes of the sampling sites, including changes in stream flow and temperature that occurred during implementation of the BMAP. Most of the actions taken under the Water Pollution Control Program were completed between 1986 and 1998, with as many as four years elapsing between some of the most significant actions. The Water Pollution Control Program included constructing nine new wastewater treatment facilities and implementation of several other pollution-reducing measures, such as a best management practices plan; area-source pollution control management; and various spill-prevention projects. Many of the major actions had readily discernable effects on the chemical and physical conditions of EFPC. As controls on effluents entering the stream were implemented, pollutant concentrations generally declined and, at least initially, the volume of water discharged from the Y-12 Complex declined. This reduction in discharge was of ecological concern and led to implementation of a flow management program for EFPC. Implementing flow management, in turn, led to substantial changes in chemical and physical conditions of the stream: stream discharge nearly doubled and stream temperatures decreased, becoming more similar to those in reference streams. While water quality clearly improved, meeting water quality standards alone does not guarantee protection of a waterbody’s biological integrity. Results from studies on the ecological changes stemming from pollution-reduction actions, such as those presented in this series, also are needed to understand how best to restore or protect biological integrity and enhance ecological recovery in stream ecosystems. With a better knowledge of the ecological consequences of their decisions, environmental managers can better evaluate alternative actions and more accurately predict their effects.

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