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Category Archives: Heavy Metals

Canada’s Freshwater in the 21st Century, 2014, Dr. David Schindler

Freshwater is widely recognized as the most pressing environmental issue of the coming century, as roughly 2 billion humans suffer from scarcity of water for drinking or sanitation. Despite its abundance of freshwater, Canada is experiencing great pressure on both its quality and quantity. Despite impending problems, the Canadian government is de-emphasizing freshwater research, both in its funding for university research and its support for federal departments with a freshwater mandate. This lecture describe some of the current threats to Canadian water, and outlines what we must do to solve them.
This is an excellent presentation and it is beneficial to listen to it all; however, if you have specific interest in hydroelectric or pipelines:
Hydroelectric: go to 34:56
Pipelines and the tar sands:  go to 50:00

June 18, 2014 — Water Institute Lecture Series and Faculty of Science Public Lecture Series
Dr. David W. Schindler, Killam Memorial Professor of Ecology, University of Alberta, retired.


Study Reveals Serious Potential for Heavy Metal Release from Hydro Facilities

Erik

Posted 8 March 2014

A recent study indicates that peaking facilities have serious potential to damage freshwater ecosystems, particularly in areas with heavy metal deposits from mining and industrial developments.  Based on the study, researcher Erik Szkokan-Emilson advised ORA in their preparation of a Part II Order request to the Minister of Environment regarding a proposed modified peaking hydroelectric facility at Wabagishik Rapids on the Vermilion River. Continue reading


Drought Induced Flux of Metals from Peatlands in Watersheds Vulnerable to Extreme Events, Erik Szkokan-Emilson

Erik J. Szkokan-Emilson, S. Watmough, and J. Gunn. – Cooperative Freshwater Ecology Unit, Living with Lakes Centre, Laurentian University, Sudbury, ON, Canada

Recently a study was published that is very relevant to hydroelectric peaking facilities that hold water back to produce power during peak demand hours.  When water is held back for up to 24 hours, large areas of the downstream can become dewatered and dry, only to be flooded again when water is released to produce power.  Also, when the headpond is depleted it can take up to 24 hours to refill the headpond, depending on river flows, and shorelines and adjacent wetlands can become dry, only to be rewetted when the headpond is filled – this goes on daily in a peaking facility.  Check out the study:

Abstract:

“Climate change is predicted to cause an increase in frequency and severity of droughts in the boreal ecozone, which can result in the lowering of water tables and subsequent release of acidic, metal-contaminated waters from wetlands. We believe that in areas where historical deposition of metals and sulphur was severe, these episodic pulses of metals could reach concentrations sufficiently high to severely affect aquatic communities in receiving waters and cause a delay in biological recovery. The objective of this study is to evaluate the impact of drought on the chemistry of water draining from two Sudbury peatlands with widely contrasting peat organic matter content to determine the response of stream water chemistry to drought from peatland types in the region. Stream samples were collected using ISCO™ automated water collectors from June to November 2011. Following a period of drought, there was a decline in pH and a large increase in concentrations of sulphate and metal ions (Al, Co, Cu, Fe, Mn, Ni, and Zn) in water draining both peatlands, with extreme concentrations occurring over a period of about two weeks. At the site with the higher peat organic matter content there was an increase in metals that have a high affinity to bind to DOC (Al, Cu, and Fe) during the onset of drought. This study demonstrates a dramatic response to drought at two sites that differ in metal and nutrient pool sizes, hydrology, and topography, suggesting the potential for a majority of peatlands in the region to experience this response. Efforts to restore aquatic ecosystems and protect freshwater resources must take into account these processes, as disruptions to biogeochemical cycles are likely to become more prevalent in a changing climate.  Click here for more.

Also, below is a slide presentation relating to this study.



Wabagishik Rapids Generating Station – Environmental Report – ORA Part II Order request

Wabagishik Rapids, Vermilion River – Proposed Dam Site

Excerpt:  “This project has not been planned in an environmentally responsible manner, and has not fully taken into account the interests of local stakeholders and the public. Therefore, it is our position that for all the reasons noted herein, Xeneca has not fulfilled its requirements under the Class EA for Waterpower.”

Continue reading


Drought-induced release of metals from peatlands in watersheds recovering from historical metal and sulphur deposition

This recently published study is very relevant to hydroelectric peaking operations that store water during off-peak hours to produce power during peak demand hours.  This results in daily inundation and drying of upstream and downstream soils, sediments, as well as peat in wetland areas.  This wetting and drying, especially in areas that have been heavily impacted by mining, can result in the release of acidic, metal contaminated waters – see the abstract and slide presentation below.

E. J. Szkokan-Emilson, B. Kielstra, S. Watmough, J. Gunn

Abstract – click to obtain study.

Climate change is predicted to cause an increase in frequency and severity of droughts in the boreal ecozone, which can result in the lowering of water tables and subsequent release of acidic, metal-contaminated waters from wetlands. We believe that in areas where historical deposition of metals and sulphur was severe, these episodic pulses of metals could reach concentrations sufficiently high to severely affect aquatic communities in receiving waters and cause a delay in biological recovery. The objective of this study is to evaluate the impact of drought on the chemistry of water draining from two Sudbury peatlands with widely contrasting peat organic matter content to determine the response of stream water chemistry to drought from peatland types in the region. Stream samples were collected using ISCO™ automated water collectors from June to November 2011. Following a period of drought, there was a decline in pH and a large increase in concentrations of sulphate and metal ions (Al, Co, Cu, Fe, Mn, Ni, and Zn) in water draining both peatlands, with extreme concentrations occurring over a period of about two weeks. At the site with the higher peat organic matter content there was an increase in metals that have a high affinity to bind to DOC (Al, Cu, and Fe) during the onset of drought. This study demonstrates a dramatic response to drought at two sites that differ in metal and nutrient pool sizes, hydrology, and topography, suggesting the potential for a majority of peatlands in the region to experience this response. Efforts to restore aquatic ecosystems and protect freshwater resources must take into account these processes, as disruptions to biogeochemical cycles are likely to become more prevalent in a changing climate.

Download (PDF, 6.66MB)



Methylmercury – Impacts of Reservoir Flooding – Hydroelectric

Reservoirs represent a significant portion of the freshwater surface on the planet. In Canada, most reservoirs are constructed to provide stable water supply for the generation of hydro-electric power. Particularly in the relatively low topography of the Precambrian Shield, the creation of reservoirs often results in the flooding of large areas of former wetland and upland forest.

By the late 1970’s, researchers recognized that fish populations in many newly-flooded reservoirs were subject to significant increases in tissue concentrations of methyl mercury. Humans relying of these fish for regular food supply were at risk of developing mercury poisoning, which can result in severe damage to the nervous system. What was causing this mercury problem and how could it be mitigated? Continue reading


Experimental Lakes Research in Kenora Reveals just how Dirty Hydroelectric Really Is – Groundbreaking Information

Harper seals our fate on water and energy sustainability

By Emma Lui | March 5, 2013
Note:  This is an excerpt of the original article – access by clicking here.

The federal government states that Fisheries and Oceans Canada no longer need to do this type of research. And yet when we look at the research being conducted at the ELA, the scientific data is sorely needed for a sustainable energy strategy.

One ELA study assesses the effects of hydroelectric development. Hydroelectric dams are often touted as a ‘clean’ energy solution. However, the ELA study raises questions about whether hydroelectric dams have similar impacts as burning fossil fuels.

“There’s a new idea around that reservoirs may be significant sources of greenhouse gases to the atmosphere. And we want to test that idea, ”says Drew Bodaly, Research Scientist at the Department of Fisheries and Oceans in this Experimental Lakes video (see below). Continue reading


EPA Survey Finds More Than Half of the Nation’s River and Stream Miles in Poor Condition

News Releases from Headquarters

Release Date: 03/26/2013
Contact Information: Stacy Kika (News Media Only), [email protected], 202-564-0906, 202-564-4355

Original Report here.

 

High Falls, on the Kipiwa River

High Falls, on the Kipiwa River

WASHINGTON — Today, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency released the results of the first comprehensive survey looking at the health of thousands of stream and river miles across the country, finding that more than half – 55 percent – are in poor condition for aquatic life.

“The health of our Nation’s rivers, lakes, bays and coastal waters depends on the vast network of streams where they begin, and this new science shows that America’s streams and rivers are under significant pressure,” said Office of Water Acting Assistant Administrator Nancy Stoner. “We must continue to invest in protecting and restoring our nation’s streams and rivers as they are vital sources of our drinking water, provide many recreational opportunities, and play a critical role in the economy.” Continue reading


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