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Investigating the temporal effects of metal-based coagulants to remove mercury from solution in the presence of dissolved organic matter

September 2, 2015

The presence of mercury (Hg), particularly methylmercury (MeHg), is a concern for both human and ecological health as MeHg is a neurotoxin and can bioaccumulate to lethal levels in upper trophic level organisms. Recent research has demonstrated that coagulation with metal-based salts can effectively remove both inorganic mercury (IHg) and MeHg from solution through association with dissolved organic matter (DOM) and subsequent flocculation and precipitation. In this study, we sought to further examine interactions between Hg and DOM and the resulting organo-metallic precipitate (floc) to assess if (1) newly added IHg could be removed to the same extent as ambient IHg or whether the association between IHg and DOM requires time, and (2) once formed, if the floc has the capacity to remove additional Hg from solution. Agricultural drainage water samples containing ambient concentrations of both DOM and IHg were spiked with a traceable amount of isotopically enriched IHg and dosed with ferric sulfate after 0, 1, 5, and 30 days. Both ambient and newly added IHg were removed within hours, with 69–79 % removed. To a separate sample set, isotopically enriched IHg was added to solution after floc had formed. Under those conditions, 81–95 % of newly added Hg was removed even at Hg concentrations 1000-fold higher than ambient levels. Results of this study indicate coagulation with ferric sulfate effectively removes both ambient and newly added IHg entering a system and suggests rapid association between IHg and DOM. This work also provides new information regarding the ability of floc to remove additional Hg from solution even after it has formed.

Citation Information

Publication Year 2015
Title Investigating the temporal effects of metal-based coagulants to remove mercury from solution in the presence of dissolved organic matter
DOI 10.1007/s00267-015-0601-2
Authors Yumiko K. Henneberry, Tamara E. C. Kraus, David P. Krabbenhoft, William R. Horwath
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title Environmental Management
Series Number
Index ID 70157399
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization California Water Science Center