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Redistribution of mercury from contaminated lake sediments of Clear Lake, California


, : Redistribution of mercury from contaminated lake sediments of Clear Lake, California. Water Air & Soil Pollution 104(1-2): 77-102, May

Mining operations conducted at the Sulphur Bank Mercury Mine at Clear Lake, California, from 1872-1957, together with acid mine drainage since abandonment, deposited ca. 100 metric tons of mercury (Hg) in the sediments of Clear Lake. In 1992 Hg in surficial sediments (up to 183 mg kg-1 concentrations adjacent to the mine. However, the ratio of methyl:total Hg in sediments increased with distance from the mine, suggesting either differential transport of methyl Hg or a non-linear relationship between sediment inorganic Hg concentrations and methylation. Water exhibited an even more gradual decline in total Hg concentrations with distance from the mine, in both unfiltered bottom water (max. ca. 70 ng L-1) and filtered surface water (max. ca. 7 ng L-1). In comparison with other studies, Clear Lake exhibits high total Hg in sediment and water, yet relatively low methyl Hg concentrations. Our findings indicate a non-linearity between total and methyl Hg concentrations in sediments. The ratio of methyl:inorganic Hg is approximately 2 orders of magnitude higher in the water column than in the sediments, making the methyl fraction much more available for down-gradient transport away from the mine. Particulate Hg comprises ca. 33-94% of the total Hg and ca. 25-78% of the methyl Hg in the water column. Geothermal springs do not appear to represent a significant source of Hg to Clear Lake. The present pattern of Hg distribution in Clear Lake shows that water column transport plays some role in the lake-wide contamination of methyl Hg, but high methylation at relatively low inorganic Hg concentrations cannot be ruled out. No quantitative estimate of the area of sediments requiring remediation is possible from these descriptive data alone.

US$19.90

DOI: 10.1023/a:1004980026183


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