Lake Wabamun is subject to many human influences, including four coal-fired power plants, nearby coal mining, a major transportation corridor, farming, and recreational activities. A recent study by Drs. Bill Donahue, E.W. Allen, and D.W. Schindler at the University of Alberta has revealed the impact of coal-fired power plants on nearby lakes.
"Anthropogenic, or human caused emissions of mercury (Hg) account for 85% of the mercury entering Lake Wabamun" - Donahue et al.
The following is the abstract of a paper authored by the aforementioned researchers, and titled "Impacts of coal-fired power plants on trace metals and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) in lake sediments in central Alberta." (In review).
|Sundance Powerplant on the south shore of Lake Wabamun|
Sediment cores from three central Alberta lakes were analyzed for trace metals and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) to determine if local coal-fired power plants have affected sediment quality. In Wabamun Lake, with four nearby power plants, sediment concentrations of trace metals, including mercury (Hg), copper, lead, arsenic, and selenium, have increased by 2- to 10-fold over the past century. Trace metal enrichments were less pronounced in Lac Ste. Anne and Pigeon Lake, 20 km north and 70 km south, respectively, of Wabamun Lake. Trace metal concentrations in Wabamun Lake sediments began to increase with the first power plant operations in the mid-1950s. Current anthropogenic Hg flux (18-27 µg m-2 yr-1) accounts for 85% of total Hg flux to Wabamun Lake.
Anthropogenic PAH flux to Wabamun Lake (73-114 µg m-2 yr-1) is 2-6 times higher than in Lac Ste. Anne and Pigeon Lake, respectively. Without improvement in trace metal and PAH emission controls, further expansion of coal-based industry in the Wabamun region will continue to adversely affect sediment quality in local lakes.
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