Environmental Impact of a Power Plant: A Case From a Coastal Area in Venezuela

by Pablo E. Penchaszadeh, Univ Simon Bolivar, Caracas, Venezuela,
David Bone, Univ Simon Bolivar, Caracas, Venezuela,

Document Type: Proceeding Paper

Part of: Coastal Zone '91


These are the results of a eight years study in which the ecological effects of Planta Centro power plant were assessed. Many aspects were included in this study, but we concentrate here on: areal influence of the thermal effluent, physico-chemical parameters and variation in the amount of suspended solids (organics and inorganics), sediment dynamics and possible effects on plankton, fish and soft-bottom macrobenthic communities. We found a direct relationship between the number of operating units of the power plant and the surface area, shape and vertical penetration of the thermal effluent. Sediment dynamics indicate a tendency towards the accumulation of fine-sand fractions in the shallow zone. Zooplankton and especially ichthyoplankton appeared to be negatively affected; it was calculated that a daily average of 24.0 × 106 fish eggs and 57.5 × 106 fish larvae circulate through the Power Plant's cooling system. Macrofaunal results showed the presence of a typical tropical shallow soft sediment community with a high species-replacement rate. Only 40% of the original species were still present at the end of the study. An adjacent seagrass bed reduced its coverage in half its original area due to changes in the water movement pattern because of the breakwaves. Thalassia testudinum biomass and total leaf length has been also reduced, but its annual turnover rate has stabilized in 13.3 times its standing crop biomass. This value represents one of the highest reported for the Caribbean. Finally the soft-bottom food web structure is discussed and compared through time.

Subject Headings: Power plants | Developing countries | Effluents | Sediment | Fish and fishery management | Electric power | Hydro power | Ecosystems | Venezuela | South America

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