Displaying items by tag: water quality
WASHINGTON — The green floater, a freshwater mussel native to the waters of Southern Appalachia, is now formally considered at risk of extinction due to the loss and fragmentation of its aquatic habitat.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service determined the green floater, historically found in 10 eastern U.S. states, is likely to become endangered due to existing and emerging threats. The service is proposing to list the mussel as threatened under the Endangered Species Act.
The green floater is still found in its native range in North Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia and West Virginia. It is considered locally extinct in Alabama and Georgia.
While the species has strongholds in places, green floaters are rare in nearly 80 percent of the watersheds where they naturally occur. More than 75 percent of the nation’s native freshwater mussel species are endangered or threatened, considered to be of special conservation concern, or presumed extinct, according to USWFS.
Potential water runoff issues stall future Oak Ridge landfill construction
OAK RIDGE — A landfill intended to hold potentially toxic debris from the demolition of legacy Oak Ridge research facilities is moving forward but construction won’t start until it is definitively determined whether the site could pollute ground and surface water.
As reported previously by Hellbenderpress, environmentalists fear toxins leaking out of the proposed landfill could contaminate waterways and make their way into fish that people might catch downstream. The landfill’s contractor, however, said leaving buildings full of toxic residue standing may be more dangerous for workers and nearby residents and the landfill will help get the buildings quickly demolished. The contractor is doing a mock-up study this year to see how best to handle water issues on the future landfill site.
This summer, the contractor United Cleanup Oak Ridge LLC will choose a subcontractor and do field work. Ben Williams, the Department of Energy’s public affairs specialist, said roads and utilities will need to move to get the site ready at that time. But UCOR stated it won’t build the landfill until after a water study spanning “two wet seasons,” beginning later this year.
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CLAXTON — Even though TVA is about to retire Bull Run Fossil Plant, water pollution issues related to it are still up for debate.
A water discharge permit hearing took place Thursday, Jan. 12 at the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation building, 761 Emory Valley Road in Oak Ridge.
The permit would, if approved, allow releases of “cooling water, process wastewater and storm water runoff” from Bull Run Fossil Plant into the Clinch River and operation of a cooling water intake system. Environmental groups have concerns.
Tennessee Valley Authority plans to retire Bull Run Fossil plant by 2023. Over several years and at meetings, both connected to TVA and organized by activist groups, citizens have voiced concerns about water quality issues due to the continued coal ash waste TVA stores on the site. In advance of this meeting, representatives of the Sierra Club, Southern Environmental Law Center, Appalachian Voices, Statewide Coalition for Community eMpowerment and Center for Biological Diversity all signed a letter asking for TDEC to set standards for water pollution from coal ash based on available technology.
This story will be updated.
Critics say new rules could run afoul of Clean Water Act
This story was originally published by Tennessee Lookout.
A state plan to rollback longstanding regulations for construction site runoff is drawing opposition from environmental groups who fear that Tennessee creeks and streams will suffer.
Stormwater discharges from construction sites — rainwater that sweeps soil or other particles off-site — can flow into nearby waterways, often creating silt deposits that impact aquatic life and water quality.
Historically, silt has been one of the primary pollutants in Tennessee’s waterways, a paper explaining the proposed new rules from the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation, or TDEC, said. Just one millimeter of soil spread over a one-acre site can weigh 5 tons, and “even a minor uncontrolled construction activity can cause major impairment in surface water,” through runoff, the paper said.
Nevertheless, TDEC is proposing significant changes in state environmental oversight of builders, developers, property owners, contractors and subcontractors in controlling runoff.
MTSU researchers document hellbender’s accelerating decline in Middle Tennessee
(Author’s note: I was aware of the hellbender before interviewing Brian Miller, but did not know the giant salamanders were present on the Highland Rim of Tennessee. Subsequent reading and interviews with other researchers, including Dr. Bill Sutton at Tennessee State University, Nashville, confirm Miller’s statements that hellbenders are vanishing from large portions of Tennessee, and Missouri. The healthy populations in portions of the Great Smoky Mountains and Cherokee National Forest may be an exception to a general trend toward extirpation and, ultimately, extinction).
Brian Miller has been researching hellbenders for decades. He serves on the faculty of Middle Tennessee State University where he teaches in the biology department and mentors younger researchers, many of whom publish their research.
He has even developed a digital “Guide to the Reptiles and Amphibians of Middle Tennessee.” The guide began more than 30 years ago as a dichotomous key for students in his vertebrate zoology class and now includes hundreds of photographs and exceeds 400 pages.
Dr. Miller researches the hellbenders of the Highland Rim, the upland that surrounds Nashville and the Great Basin. Populations of hellbenders in streams of this region are perhaps Tennessee’s most endangered.
QUESTION: I noticed that you specialize in herpetofauna. Most of the research listed on your faculty page is focused on amphibians, but with some papers on snakes. Can you comment about your research?
ANSWER: You are correct that amphibians are my primary research interest, particularly salamanders. However, I also have strong interests in reptiles, and my students and I have conducted research on various species of snakes and turtles.
When did you become interested in hellbenders?
Hellbenders have been of interest to me since I first encountered them while enrolled in a course on herpetology at the University of Missouri in 1977. I was fortunate that the professor of that course, Dean Metter, was involved with research on hellbenders and I began to assist with his research in 1978, in collaboration with Robert Wilkinson at Southwest Missouri State University in Springfield, Missouri.
Chris Petersen was working on his master’s degree with Dr. Wilkinson at that time and he matriculated to the University of Missouri a couple of years later to start on his Ph.D, which was also with hellbenders. Chris and I spent time in the field gathering data for his Ph.D. project until I moved to Washington State to work on my Ph.D.
I was hired into the biology department at Middle Tennessee State University in 1989 and began working with hellbenders in this state in 1990. At that time, I was able to locate populations in several rivers in Middle Tennessee, including a large population in the Collins River. I decided to concentrate my efforts on this population and one in the Buffalo River.
Of note, the population I worked with in the Collins River was dominated by large adults, whereas the population in the Buffalo River consisted of many age classes, including young individuals.
The Collins River situation was like what I was familiar with in Missouri and Arkansas populations. Unfortunately, by the early 2000s the population I was working with in the Collins River was gone; however, populations remain in the Buffalo River. My research with hellbenders during the past decade has been concentrated in streams in the Western Highland Rim.
Do you work with both subspecies, the Ozark, and the Eastern hellbender?
I worked with both subspecies while a student at the University of Missouri when assisting with projects in the Metter lab, but since I moved to Tennessee, I have worked only with Tennessee populations.
What do you perceive as the greatest threats to hellbender populations?
I am not certain why most populations of hellbenders are in decline rangewide, but suspect that habitat alteration, including sedimentation, and disease are involved in many if not all areas where declines are occurring. Lack of recruitment of young is a common theme of populations that decline.