The concentration of mercury in contaminated estuarine sediments of Bellingham Bay, Washington was found to decrease with a half-time of about 1.3 yr after the primary anthropogenic source of mercury was removed. In situ measurements of the mercury flux from sediments, in both dissolved and volatile forms, could not account for this decrease. This result suggests that the removal of mercury is associated with sediment particles transported out of the study area. This decrease was modeled using a steady-state mixing model. Mercury concentrations in anoxic interstitial waters reached 3.5 ??g/l, 126 times higher than observed in the overlying seawater. Mercury fluxes from these sediments ranged from 1.2 to 2.8 ?? 10-5 ng/cm2/sec, all in a soluble form. In general, higher Hg fluxes were associated with low oxygen or reducing conditions in the overlying seawater. In contrast, no flux was measurable from oxidizing interstitial water having mercury concentrations of 0.01-0.06 ??/l. ?? 1980.
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Rate of mercury loss from contaminated estuarine sediments