Coal-fired Power Plants and Their Impact on Ecosystems Health
Issue: 2017 - Volume 16 [Issue 4]
Mintesinot Jiru *
Department of Natural Sciences, Coppin State University, 2500 W. North Avenue, Baltimore, MD, 21216, USA
*Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Coal-fired power plants emit greenhouse gases (GHG) that cause global warming. Coal, being one of the most important fossil fuel, emits three times as much GHG as natural gas. The combustion of coal (fossil fuels at large) discharge different kinds of chemical substances that affect ecosystems and human health. Some of the most important by-products include Nitrous oxides, Sulfur oxides, Carbon dioxide, Fly ash and Mercury. Various studies have confirmed that fly ash contains high levels of carcinogens causing more incidences of cancer, albeit data on ecosystems health is scanty and little is understood. The Author designed a greenhouse study to investigate the effects of coal by-products on the health of immediate ecosystems by growing tomatoes in potted soils collected from two coal-fired power plants. The first site (Chalk Point generating station), is located in Prince George's County (MD) while the second one (Brandon Shore generating Station) is located in Anne Arundel County near Curtis Bay (MD). Three replicate samples were taken within 1 mile and 4 miles radius of these coal-fired power plants. Measurements were made on the soils physico-chemical (pH, soil texture) and plant morphological (leaf-area-index, color, stalk diameter and height) characteristics. Results of the analysis show that plants growing in close proximity to the coal-fired power plants exhibit a very low leaf-area-index, stunted growth and overall low performance. The study concluded that coal-fired power plants do exert undesirable ecological impacts and in the long-run can have a detrimental effect on the health of ecosystems.
Keywords: Coal-fired power plants, ecosystems health, greenhouse gases, by-products