Thornton, Benjamin

Document Type


Publication Date

Winter 4-30-2021



In 2014, several thousand gallons of coal-processing chemicals, which included 4-methyl-1- cyclohexanemethanol (MCHM), spilled into the Elk River in West Virginia. The location of this spill in West Virginia’s chemical valley is historically significant in defining the exploitations of people residing in this area. The concentration of crude MCHM in the river was approximated at 0.15 µg/L. Although some initial studies did consider the effects of MCHM exposure on humans, little attention has been given to aquatic wildlife. In this project, I will expose fathead minnows, Pimephales promelas, an environmentally relevant species, to concentrations of MCHM between zero and fifty ppm for 72 hours. General Esterase and Glutathione-S-Transferase enzyme activities will be measured using whole body protein extracts, and compared to the control groups. I expect to see a significant increase in the activity of both systems. Increased activity could indicate that the fish have exhibited a detoxification response, which has potential implications for the endogenous functions of these enzyme systems.


This project was an interdisciplinary coordination with the History department to determine the historical context surrounding chemical contamination in West Virginia. This was completed as a Southern Scholars requirement.