Development of a mercury speciation, fate, and biotic uptake (BIOTRANSPEC) model: Application to Lahontan Reservoir (Nevada, USA)

Authors

  • Nilima Gandhi,

    1. Department of Chemical Engineering and Applied Chemistry, University of Toronto, 200 College Street, Toronto, Ontario M5S 3E5, Canada
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  • Satyendra P. Bhavsar,

    1. Department of Chemical Engineering and Applied Chemistry, University of Toronto, 200 College Street, Toronto, Ontario M5S 3E5, Canada
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  • Miriam L. Diamond,

    Corresponding author
    1. Department of Chemical Engineering and Applied Chemistry, University of Toronto, 200 College Street, Toronto, Ontario M5S 3E5, Canada
    2. Department of Geography, University of Toronto, 100 St. George Street, Toronto, Ontario M5S 3G3, Canada
    • Department of Chemical Engineering and Applied Chemistry, University of Toronto, 200 College Street, Toronto, Ontario M5S 3E5, Canada
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  • James S. Kuwabara,

    1. U.S. Geological Survey, 345 Middlefield Road, Menlo Park, California 94025
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  • Mark Marvin-DiPasquale,

    1. U.S. Geological Survey, 345 Middlefield Road, Menlo Park, California 94025
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  • David P. Krabbenhoft

    1. U.S. Geological Survey, 8505 Research Way, Middleton, Wisconsin 53562
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  • Published on the Web 6/20/2007

Abstract

A mathematically linked mercury transport, speciation, kinetic, and simple biotic uptake (BIOTRANSPEC) model has been developed. An extension of the metal transport and speciation (TRANSPEC) model, BIOTRANSPEC estimates the fate and biotic uptake of inorganic (Hg(II)), elemental (Hg(0)) and organic (MeHg) forms of mercury and their species in the dissolved, colloidal (e.g., dissolved organic matter [DOM]), and particulate phases of surface aquatic systems. A pseudo-steady state version of the model was used to describe mercury dynamics in Lahontan Reservoir (near Carson City, NV, USA), where internal loading of the historically deposited mercury is remobilized, thereby maintaining elevated water concentrations. The Carson River is the main source of total mercury (THg), of which more than 90% is tightly bound in a gold-silver-mercury amalgam, to the system through loadings in the spring, with negligible input from the atmospheric deposition. The speciation results suggest that aqueous species are dominated by Hg-DOM, Hg(OH)2, and HgClOH. Sediment-to-water diffusion of MeHg and Hg-DOM accounts for approximately 10% of total loadings to the water column. The water column acts as a net sink for MeHg by reducing its levels through two competitive processes: Uptake by fish, and net MeHg demethylation. Although reservoir sediments produce significant amounts of MeHg (4 g/d), its transport from sediment to water is limited (1.6 g/d), possibly because of its adsorption on metal oxides of iron and manganese at the sediment-water interface. Fish accumulate approximately 45% of the total MeHg mass in the water column, and 9% of total MeHg uptake by fish leaves the system because of fishing. Results from this new model reiterate the previous conclusion that more than 90% of THg input is retained in sediment, which perpetuates elevated water concentrations.

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