Redox Chemistry in Minnesota Streams during Episodes of Increased Methylmercury Discharge

Metropolitan Council Environmental Services, St Paul, Minnesota 55106-6724, USA.
Environmental Science and Technology (Impact Factor: 5.33). 11/2004; 38(19):4921-7. DOI: 10.1021/es049696c
Source: PubMed


Mercury (Hg) and methylmercury (MeHg) are flushed from watersheds during hydrological events, contaminating downstream surface waters and resident fish populations. We monitored total mercury (THg), MeHg, and ancillary water chemistry parameters in two streams (Cedar Creek and Trott Brook) in east-central Minnesota on a weekly or semiweekly basis from April through October 2003. Heavy precipitation in late June resulted in discrete episodes of high concentrations (>1.2 ng/L) of MeHg in both streams in early July. The MeHg/THg ratio increased from 0.15 to 0.36 in Cedar Creek and from 0.13 to 0.46 in Trott Brook during the event. The high MeHg concentrations were accompanied by low dissolved oxygen concentrations and increased concentrations of dissolved organic carbon, Mn, Fe, and orthophosphate. A prolonged absence of precipitation during August and early September brought stream levels back to baseflow values, and MeHg concentrations decreased to less than 0.1 ng/L. These results suggest that warm-weather, high-discharge events are the primary route of export of MeHg from these watersheds, and baseflow contributes much less MeHg to downstream waters. The redox water chemistry during the,events sampled here suggests that MeHg in these streams is discharged from wetland areas where anoxic/anaerobic conditions prevail.

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