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Mercury concentrations and loads in a large river system tributary to San Francisco Bay, California, USA


  • Published on the Web 6/5/2009.


In order to estimate total mercury (HgT) loads entering San Francisco Bay, USA, via the Sacramento-San Joaquin River system, unfiltered water samples were collected between January 2002 and January 2006 during high flow events and analyzed for HgT. Unfiltered HgT concentrations ranged from 3.2 to 75 ng/L and showed a strong correlation (r2 = 0.8, p < 0.001, n = 78) to suspended sediment concentrations (SSC). During infrequent large floods, HgT concentrations relative to SSC were approximately twice as high as observed during smaller floods. This difference indicates the transport of more Hg-contaminated particles during high discharge events. Daily HgT loads in the Sacramento-San Joaquin River at Mallard Island ranged from below the limit of detection to 35 kg. Annual HgT loads varied from 61 ± 22 kg (n = 5) in water year (WY) 2002 to 470 ± 170 kg (n = 25) in WY 2006. The data collected will assist in understanding the long-term recovery of San Francisco Bay from Hg contamination and in implementing the Hg total maximum daily load, the long-term cleanup plan for Hg in the Bay.