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Mercury Concentrations and Loads in United States and Canadian Tributaries of Lake Superior

September 22, 2022

In 2021, the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) Mercury Research Laboratory (MRL) conducted a large-scale assessment of mercury (Hg) concentrations and Hg stable isotope values in tributaries of Lake Superior in order to define the sources and amounts of Hg entering the lake. Water samples were collected monthly from 18 tributaries in the United States from April through October in 2021 and during 2022 spring melt (May 2022). As a complement, 10 tributaries on the Lake Superior Northshore were sampled three times a year (spring, summer, and fall) by Lakehead University and Lakehead Region Conservation Authority. Nine tributaries were also sampled twice per year (spring and summer) in Pukaskwa National Park by Parks Canada. Filtered total Hg (THg) concentrations from United States and Canadian Northshore ranged from 0.2 to 8.8 nanograms per liter (ng L-1), with a median value of 1.2 ng L-1. Unfiltered THg in Pukaskwa National Park ranged from 0.6 to 5.0 ng L-1 with a median of 3.2 ng L-1, but encompassed both the filtered and particulate bound Hg. Median methylmercury (MeHg) values were approximately 0.1 ng L-1 for both filtered and unfiltered waters, but could reach levels greater than 1 ng L-1 during higher flow events. THg and MeHg concentrations were positively correlated to dissolved organic carbon (DOC) concentrations for most tributaries. Hg loads to Lake Superior were calculated for U.S. tributaries using the R package loadflex ( ), median loads for THg were 18 grams per day, but could increase to 590 grams per day under high flow and snow melt conditions.

Publication Year 2022
Title Mercury Concentrations and Loads in United States and Canadian Tributaries of Lake Superior
DOI 10.5066/P9W6I5EK
Authors Sarah E Janssen, Michael T Tate
Product Type Data Release
Record Source USGS Digital Object Identifier Catalog
USGS Organization Upper Midwest Water Science Center