Previous investigations examined sources and sinks of mercury to Sinclair Inlet based on historic and new data. This included an evaluation of mercury concentrations from various sources and mercury loadings from industrial discharges and groundwater flowing from the Bremerton naval complex to Sinclair Inlet. This report provides new data from four potential sources of mercury to Sinclair Inlet: (1) filtered and particulate total mercury concentrations of creek water during the wet season, (2) filtered and particulate total mercury releases from the Navy steam plant following changes in the water softening process and discharge operations, (3) release of mercury from soils to groundwater in two landfill areas at the Bremerton naval complex, and (4) total mercury concentrations of solids in dry dock sumps that were not affected by bias from sequential sampling.
The previous estimate of the loading of filtered total mercury from Sinclair Inlet creeks was based solely on dry season samples. Concentrations of filtered total mercury in creek samples collected during wet weather were significantly higher than dry weather concentrations, which increased the estimated loading of filtered total mercury from creek basins from 27.1 to 78.1 grams per year.
Changes in the concentrations and loading of filtered and particulate total mercury in the effluent of the steam plant were investigated after the water softening process was changed from ion-exchange to reverse osmosis and the discharge of stack blow-down wash began to be diverted to the municipal water-treatment plant. These changes reduced the concentrations of filtered and particulate total mercury from the steam plant of the Bremerton naval complex, which resulted in reduced loadings of filtered total mercury from 5.9 to 0.15 grams per year.
Previous investigations identified three fill areas on the Bremerton naval complex, of which the western fill area is thought to be the largest source of mercury on the base. Studies of groundwater in the other two fill areas were conducted under worst-case higher high tidal conditions. A December 2011 study found that concentrations of filtered total mercury in the well in the fill area on the eastern boundary of the Bremerton naval complex were less than or equal to 11 nanograms per liter, indicating that releases from the eastern area were unlikely. In addition, concentrations of total mercury of solids were low (<3 milligrams per kilogram). In contrast, data from the November 2011 study indicated that the concentrations of filtered total mercury in the well located in the central fill area had tidally influenced concentrations of up to 500 nanograms per liter and elevated concentrations of total mercury of solids (29–41 milligrams per kilogram). This suggests that releases from this area, which has not been previously studied in detail, may be substantial.
Previous measurements of total mercury of suspended solids in the dry dock discharges revealed high concentration of total mercury when suspended-solids concentrations were low. However, this result could have been owing to bias from sequential sampling during changing suspended‑solids concentrations. Sampling of two dry dock systems on the complex in a manner that precluded this bias confirmed that suspended-solids concentrations and total mercury concentrations of suspended solids varied considerably during pumping cycles. These new data result in revised estimates of solids loadings from the dry docks. Although most of the solids discharged by the dry docks seem to be recycled Operable Unit B Marine sediment, a total of about 3.2 metric tons of solids per year containing high concentrations of total mercury were estimated to be discharged by the two dry dock systems. A simple calculation, in which solids (from dry docks, the steam plant, and tidal flushing of the largest stormwater drain) are widely dispersed throughout Operable Unit B Marine, suggests that Bremerton naval complex solids would likely have little effect on Operable Unit B Marine sediments because of high concentrations of mercury already present in the sediment.
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USGS Numbered Series
Improved estimates of filtered total mercury loadings and total mercury concentrations of solids from potential sources to Sinclair Inlet, Kitsap County, Washington