Thermal Pollution at Holyrood Electricity Generating Station
Project by Catherine Kenny, Andrea Cnudde, and Simba Chiripanhura.
Full report. CC BY-SA 3.0 US

Screen Shot 2015-06-06 at 6.26.32 PMIntroduction
In what ways does the environmental pollution of industrial corporations affect the communities in which they are situated? Our research is specifically concerned with the Holyrood Thermal Generating Station in Holyrood, Newfoundland and its Cooling Water Outfall. The effluent flows at a rate of 40,000 to 150,000 gallons of water per minute directly into the waters of Conception Bay and is located on public land next to a small community. We believe the pollution emitted from the plant can have negative impacts on the surrounding environment and human populations.

By using our thermal flashlight, we wanted to gain a better understanding of further environmental damage by testing for the presence of thermal pollution. Thermal pollution refers to the adverse effects resulting from human-induced changes to the temperature or natural bodies of water. We hypothesized that thermal pollution would exist at our site because coolant effluents often cause water temperatures to rise. Research shows that the consistent natural water temperature is crucial for ecosystem equality, as many aquatic animal species have a limited temperature tolerance (Verones et al., 2010, p. 9364). Impacts on aquatic animal life include changes in metabolic rates, reproduction, and growth; death; and the destruction of species.

We used a thermal flashlight, which is a LED flashlight with an infrared sensor that “paints” the temperature on the surface of the water directly. By using the thermal flashlight, we believe we could gain a better understanding of environmental damage by testing for increases in surface water temperature, which could indicate the presence of thermal pollution.

The casing was built from a small, inexpensive (~ $1) plastic container. We cut out an opening for the sensor and light, and an opening for the power connect. The battery pack was mounted on the exterior for ease of access. We fastened an interchangeable-length handle to extend the reach. We secured a clear plastic bag around the unit with waterproof tape.


We visited the Holyrood site and recorded the temperature of the coolant effluent on November 25, 2014, to determine if thermal pollution may be present. The air temperature was approximately 13°C on the day we visited and it was very windy. Before collecting data at the effluent, we took a control temperature of the surface water away from the site, which we recorded as approximately 42°F (5.56°C). We found two discharge areas at the effluent site, one of which was approximately 53°F (11.67°C) and the other of which was 65°F (18.33°C). We measured the surface temperature of the water around the entire site, noting that at the mouth of the effluent, where the water enters Conception Bay, the temperature was still around 60°F (15.56°C), significantly warmer than our control site

Over two visits, the surface water temperature of the site’s effluent ranged from 11 – 23°F (6.11 – 12.77°C) above our control temperature (see full report). We were told fish are attracted to the area due to the warm temperatures. Acute lethality tests (ALT) were conducted in the plant’s other effluent site in Indian Pond,and failed these tests five out of eight times in 2013. We also discovered 14 tonnes of sulphuric acid were discharged directly into Conception Bay in 2012.

It is clear that thermal pollution is present at the site, but we are unsure of the extent to which it affects the area’s aquatic environment. More in-depth testing should be done for both thermal pollution and water contaminants and on aquatic species, specifically fish, in the area.

Because of Newfoundland’s history of industrial dominance of the commons, we believe developing an equitable relationship between the operators of the Holyrood plant and local fishermen would work to create a healthier aquatic environment for the community, ultimately reducing environmental injustices in the area. To this end, emphasis should be place on participatory research methods, engaging and encouraging local involvement. Existing and further research should be transparent, by disseminating all information in an accessible manner to the public.


Examining Thermal Pollution and Exploring Environmental Injustice in Holyrood, NL byby Catherine Kenny, Andrea Cnudde, and Simba Chiripanhura is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

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