Date Thesis Awarded


Access Type

Honors Thesis -- Access Restricted On-Campus Only

Degree Name

Bachelors of Science (BS)




Gary Rice

Committee Members

Randolph M. Chambers

James M. Kaste


Due to the abundance of coal and its extensive use in industry and power production around the world, it is important to understand its impact in all phases of production and consumption. Many studies have examined the mining, use, and disposal of coal, but few have examined the possible contamination associated with coal transportation. Six trace metal contaminants (As, Cd, Cu, Pb, Hg, and Zn) are examined at wetland sites along the railways that run the length of the Virginia Peninsula, transporting coal from Appalachia to the shipping hub in Newport News, VA. CVAAS, GFAAS, and FAAS are used to determine the concentrations of these analytes in sediment cores collected at varying distances from railways. Spider samples are also evaluated for elevated Hg concentrations to examine the effects of bioaccumulation from coal dust spread on biota. When compared to the Waller Mill Park control site, all six elements had elevated concentrations at test sites. Hg, Cd, As, Pb, Zn, and Cu concentrations were 43%, 43%, 334%, 51%, 388%, and 112% higher on average than at the Waller Mill control site. Hg, Zn, Pb, and Cd exhibited similar spreading behavior, all showing highest average concentrations in the 20-50 m buffer around the railway. Spider samples indicated higher Hg values in web-feeding spiders, attributable to web recycling. Higher values of Hg at control sites also fit the significant positive correlation between Hg and Zn levels in sediments.

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 License.


Thesis is part of Honors ETD pilot project, 2008-2013. Migrated from Dspace in 2016.

On-Campus Access Only