Has submarine groundwater discharge been overlooked as a source of mercury to coastal waters? Academic Article uri icon

abstract

  • We measured the mercury (Hg) in groundwater, aquifer sediments, and surface water in Waquoit Bay (Massachusetts) and found that this toxic metal (range: <3.2-262 pM) was being released within the subterranean estuary, with similarly high levels (range: 18-256 pM) found in the surface waters of the bay. None of the dissolved species (DOC, chloride, and Fe) normally observed to influence Hg partitioning correlated well with the observed Hg concentrations. It was hypothesized that this was in part due to the variable loading in time and space of Hg onto the aquifer sands in combination with the seasonality of groundwater flow through the aquifer. Aquifer sediment samples from the study site ranged from <1 to 12.5 pmol of Hg/g of sediment, suggesting log Kd values on the order of 1. We hypothesize that this was due to the low organic carbon content typical of the aquifer sediments. Last, itwas estimated that submarine groundwater discharge supplied 0.47-1.9 nmol of Hg m(-2) day(-1) to the bay, which is an order of magnitude higher than the atmospheric deposition rate for the northeastern U.S.

publication date

  • May 1, 2007