Evaluation of the effects of coal fly ash amendments on the toxicity of a contaminated marine sediment

Robert M. Burgess, Monique M. Perron, Carey L. Friedman, Eric M. Suuberg, Kelly G. Pennell, Mark G. Cantwell, Marguerite C. Pelletier, Kay T. Ho, Jonathan R. Serbst, Stephan A. Ryba

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

20 Scopus citations


Approaches for cleaning up contaminated sediments range from dredging to in situ treatment. In this study, we discuss the effects of amending reference and contaminated sediments with coal fly ash to reduce the bioavailability and toxicity of a field sediment contaminated with polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs). Six fly ashes and a coconut charcoal were evaluated in 7-d whole sediment toxicity tests with a marine amphipod (Ampelisca abdita) and mysid (Americamysis bahia). Fly ashes with high carbon content and the coconut charcoal showed proficiency at reducing toxicity. Some of the fly ashes demonstrated toxicity in the reference treatments. It is suspected that some of this toxicity is related to the presence of ammonia associated with fly ashes as a result of postoxidation treatment to reduce nitrous oxide emissions. Relatively simple methods exist to remove ammonia from fly ash before use, and fly ashes with low ammonia content are available. Fly ashes were also shown to effectively reduce overlying water concentrations of several PAHs. No evidence was seen of the release of the metals cadmium, copper, nickel, or lead from the fly ashes. A preliminary 28-d polychaete bioaccumulation study with one of the high-carbon fly ashes and a reference sediment was also performed. Although preliminary, no evidence was seen of adverse effects to worm growth or lipid content or of accumulation of PAHs or mercury from exposure to the fly ash. These data show fly ashes with high carbon content could represent viable remedial materials for reducing the bioavailability of organic contaminants in sediments.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)26-35
Number of pages10
JournalEnvironmental Toxicology and Chemistry
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2009


  • Coal fly ash
  • Contaminated sediments
  • Marine toxicity
  • Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons
  • Remediation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Environmental Chemistry
  • Health, Toxicology and Mutagenesis


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