Publication Date


Document Type


First Advisor

Flemal, Ronald C.

Degree Name

M.S. (Master of Science)

Legacy Department

Department of Geology


Pollution--Illinois; Coal--Combustion; Electric power-plants--Environmental Aspects--Illinois; Trace elements


The burning of coal in coal-fired electricity generating plants accounted for 36.6 million tons of coal usage in Illinois in 1979. This burning caused approximately 14.2 tons of cadmium, 470 tons of chromium, 413 tons of copper, 4.5 tons of mercury, 465 tons of nickel, and 1820 tons of zinc to be released to the environment. From 0.8% to in excess of 90% of the release is to the atmosphere, depending primarily on the volatility of the metal. Five power plant areas have been investigated to determine whether releases of the metals to the atmosphere has a discernible effect on metal concentrations in stream waters surrounding the power plants. Results of the analysis indicate that trivalent chromium, total chromium, mercury, and zinc show rejection of the hypothesis of no association between stream water metal concentrations and stream water quality monitoring station locations. Cadmium, copper, and nickel show no such rejection. There was insufficient data to analyze hexavalent chromium. When the data set is analyzed on an individual power plant basis, two of the five power plant areas are responsible for 75% of the no-association hypothesis rejections. Each of the two power plant areas are subject to atmospheric influences on stream water chemistry other than the power plants themselves. One plant is located near metropolitan St. Louis, and the other is adjacent to the area in Southern Illinois affected by acid mine drainage from coal mining activity. Metal concentrations in stream water do not appear to be strongly affected by coal burning in the power plants. However, both stream sediment and members of the aquatic community have higher metal concentrations than the stream water. Metals in the stream water are rapidly removed to the stream sediment, and are incorporated by benthic feeding organisms and macrophytes into the aquatic community. Stream water metal concentrations are only a very conservative indicator of the quantity of metals in the entire stream system.


Includes bibliographical references.||Includes illustrations and a map.


xi, 128 pages




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