Presentation Title

IS THERE A UNIVERSAL BENCHMARK TO EVALUATE HABITAT QUALITY IN COALFIELD STREAMS?

Presenter Information

Shannon SpencerFollow

Document Type

Panel Presentation

Keywords

Conductivity, EPA, TMI Scores

Biography

Shannon Spencer is currently working on her bachelor’s degree in Geography at Marshall University while working as a GIS Technician at Morristown Utilities. Shannon graduated from Roane State Community College with an Associates in GIS while she worked as a student intern with the U.S. Office of Surface Mining in Knoxville, TN. While working for the U.S. Office of Surface Mining she was able to learn about different field data as well as operations of coal production. She later worked for the U.S. Department of Justice as a student intern until beginning her full-time career with Morristown Utilities in 2013.

Major

Geography

Advisor for this project

Anita Walz

Start Date

20-4-2018 2:00 PM

End Date

20-4-2018 3:15 PM

Abstract

In 2011, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced results of a series of water quality studies conducted in the West Virginia coalfields and validated it by using data from Kentucky. According to the original EPA benchmark, a specific conductance level of 300 µS/cm is needed to ensure protection of various macro invertebrate species in the Appalachian coalfield ecoregions. Although this study was only performed in West Virginia and Kentucky, EPA stated that this threshold may be applicable to other Appalachian coal states.

The purpose of this study is to test the validity of the EPA procedure on data from the coalfields of Tennessee. To do this, the Tennessee Macroinvertebrate Index (TMI) scores were compared against stream conductivity values. The TMI scores are indicators of stream health with TMI scores of 32 or above as fully supporting or 32 and lower as impairment. Likewise, habitat assessments and scores were conducted during each stream survey and compared against the TMI scores to see if poor habitat had a greater effect on macroinvertebrate communities than conductivity. Although this study is not conclusive, it does indicate that the 300 µS/cm threshold may be overly protective and that many streams with higher conductivity had fully supporting ecosystems. It was also determined that other stressors such as poor habitat may have a greater impact on the health of biological communities than conductivity. This study would help determine if a universal benchmark can be applicable for all ecoregions or if additional studies need to take place.

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Apr 20th, 2:00 PM Apr 20th, 3:15 PM

IS THERE A UNIVERSAL BENCHMARK TO EVALUATE HABITAT QUALITY IN COALFIELD STREAMS?

In 2011, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced results of a series of water quality studies conducted in the West Virginia coalfields and validated it by using data from Kentucky. According to the original EPA benchmark, a specific conductance level of 300 µS/cm is needed to ensure protection of various macro invertebrate species in the Appalachian coalfield ecoregions. Although this study was only performed in West Virginia and Kentucky, EPA stated that this threshold may be applicable to other Appalachian coal states.

The purpose of this study is to test the validity of the EPA procedure on data from the coalfields of Tennessee. To do this, the Tennessee Macroinvertebrate Index (TMI) scores were compared against stream conductivity values. The TMI scores are indicators of stream health with TMI scores of 32 or above as fully supporting or 32 and lower as impairment. Likewise, habitat assessments and scores were conducted during each stream survey and compared against the TMI scores to see if poor habitat had a greater effect on macroinvertebrate communities than conductivity. Although this study is not conclusive, it does indicate that the 300 µS/cm threshold may be overly protective and that many streams with higher conductivity had fully supporting ecosystems. It was also determined that other stressors such as poor habitat may have a greater impact on the health of biological communities than conductivity. This study would help determine if a universal benchmark can be applicable for all ecoregions or if additional studies need to take place.