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Mercury in precipitation in Indiana, January 2004–December 2005

January 3, 2009

Mercury in precipitation was monitored during 2004–2005 at five locations in Indiana as part of the National Atmospheric Deposition Program–Mercury Deposition Network (NADP–MDN). Monitoring stations were operated at Roush Lake near Huntington, Clifty Falls State Park near Madison, Fort Harrison State Park near Indianapolis, Monroe County Regional Airport near Bloomington, and Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore near Porter. At these monitoring stations, precipitation amounts were measured continuously and weekly samples were collected for analysis of mercury by methods achieving detection limits as low as 0.05 ng/L (nanograms per liter). Wet deposition was computed as the product of mercury concentration and precipitation. The data were analyzed for seasonal patterns, temporal trends, and geographic differences.

In the 2 years, 520 weekly samples were collected at the 5 monitoring stations and 448 of these samples had sufficient precipitation to compute mercury wet deposition. The 2-year mean mercury concentration at the five monitoring stations (normalized to the sample volume) was 10.6 ng/L. As a reference for comparison, the total mercury concentration in 41 percent of the samples analyzed was greater than the statewide Indiana water-quality standard for mercury (12 ng/L, protecting aquatic life) and 99 percent of the concentrations exceeded the most conservative Indiana water-quality criterion (1.3 ng/L, protecting wild mammals and birds). The normalized annual mercury concentration at Clifty Falls in 2004 was the fourth highest in the NADP–MDN in eastern North America that year. In 2005, the mercury concentrations at Clifty Falls and Indiana Dunes were the ninth highest in the NADP–MDN in eastern North America.

At the five monitoring stations during the study period, the mean weekly total mercury deposition was 0.208 µg/m2 (micrograms per square meter) and mean annual total mercury deposition was 10.8 µg/m2. The annual mercury deposition at Clifty Falls in 2004 and 2005 was in the top 25 percent of the NADP–MDN stations in eastern North America.

Mercury concentrations and deposition varied at the five monitoring stations during 2004–2005. Mercury concentrations in wet-deposition samples ranged from 1.2 to 116.6 ng/L and weekly mercury deposition ranged from 0.002 to 1.74 µg/m2. Data from weekly samples exhibited seasonal patterns. During April through September, total mercury concentrations and deposition were higher than the median for all samples. Annual precipitation at four of the five monitoring stations was within 10 percent of normal both years, with the exception of Indiana Dunes, where precipitation was 23 percent below normal in 2005.

Episodes of high mercury deposition, which were the top 10 percent of weekly mercury deposition at the five monitoring stations, contributed 39 percent of all mercury deposition during 2004–2005. Mercury deposition more than 1.04 µg/m2 (5 times the mean weekly deposition) was recorded for 12 samples. These episodes of highest mercury deposition were recorded at all five monitoring stations, but the most (7 of 12) were at Clifty Falls and contributed 34.4 percent of the total deposition at that station during 2004–2005. Weekly samples with high mercury deposition may help to explain the differences in annual mercury deposition among the five monitoring stations in Indiana.

A statistical evaluation of the monitoring data for 2001–2005 indicated several statistically significant temporal trends. A statewide (5-station) decrease (p = 0.007) in mercury deposition and a statewide decrease (p = 0.059) in mercury concentration were shown. Decreases in mercury deposition (p = 0.061 and p = 0.083) were observed at Roush Lake and Bloomington. A statistically significant trend was not observed for precipitation at the five monitoring stations during this 5-year period. A potential explanation for part of the statewide decrease in mercury concentration and mercury deposition was a 28 percent decrease in the total estimated annual mercury emissions in Indiana between 2002 and 2005.

Mercury deposition statistically was correlated most closely to precipitation in the 448 samples, 2004–2005, and this relation was demonstrated by statewide maps of annual precipitation and annual mercury deposition based on precipitation data from 127 National Weather Service Cooperative Observer Program stations. However, one area in southeastern Indiana in the vicinity of Clifty Falls exhibited high mercury deposition that might be related more to mercury concentration than to precipitation. This is because areas with the same range of precipitation as southeastern Indiana were mapped with less mercury deposition.

Other data demonstrate a geographic difference for mercury in precipitation in the vicinity of the Clifty Falls monitoring station. The weekly mercury concentrations at Clifty Falls were statistically higher than concentrations at Roush Lake, Fort Harrison, and Bloomington. Clifty Falls data ranked highest among the five monitoring stations for mercury concentration and mercury deposition, 2004–2005, and in the previous 3 years. Episodes of high mercury deposition were recorded most often at Clifty Falls in 2004–2005 and in the previous 3 years. Statistical trends in mercury concentration or mercury deposition were not observed for the Clifty Falls data. A potential explanation for this geographic difference is that annual mercury emissions from sources in the vicinity of Clifty Falls were higher than those at the other stations. Other factors may help explain the differences in total mercury concentrations, such as the types of mercury emissions, mercury transport from stationary sources outside Indiana, and meteorological conditions. Additional data are needed to assign a localized or regional boundary to the area affected by high deposition of mercury near Clifty Falls.

Citation Information

Publication Year 2008
Title Mercury in precipitation in Indiana, January 2004–December 2005
DOI 10.3133/sir20085148
Authors Martin R. Risch, Kathleen K. Fowler
Publication Type Report
Publication Subtype USGS Numbered Series
Series Title Scientific Investigations Report
Series Number 2008-5148
Index ID sir20085148
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Indiana Water Science Center