Appalachian State University scientists in the fields of biology and chemistry are teaming up with biologists from the Tennessee Aquarium to analyze just how badly the Tennessee Valley Authority has screwed up the ecosystem of the Emory River that runs through Kingston and Harriman. (The Emory River feeds the Clinch and Tennessee rivers, so it affects a lot of us)
The professors will examine sediment, water and tissue samples from fish to determine how concentrated the heavy metals in the river are. Fly ash, the by-product of burned coal, contains a number of nasty heavy metals that are naturally occurring in coal, but dangerously concentrated in fly ash.
Fish collected so far by aquarium biologists are in the condition expected--stomachs filled with ash, clogged gills and bodies missing scales or pocked with lesions. The prognosis for fish near the spill, they say, is pretty grave. But the team will be monitoring the long-term health of species downstream and hopefully provide some insight on how to restore health to the river. As details of the study become available, we'll bring 'em to you.
Trouble for the residents along the Emory and the fish within it began Dec. 22, when the retaining wall of a 40-acre fly ash storage pond at the TVA Kingston Fossil Plant ruptured, spilling more than 1 billion gallons of toxic sludge into the river and onto a nearby valley, swamping houses and pastures.