5 research outputs found

    Flood Hydrology and Methylmercury Availability in Coastal Plain Rivers

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    Mercury (Hg) burdens in top-predator fish differ substantially between adjacent South Carolina Coastal Plain river basins with similar wetlands coverage. In the Congaree River, floodwaters frequently originate in the Blue Ridge and Piedmont regions, where wetlands coverage and surface water dissolved methylmercury (MeHg) concentrations are low. Piedmont-driven flood events can lead to downward hydraulic gradients in the Coastal Plain riparian wetland margins, inhibiting MeHg transport from wetland sediments, and decreasing MeHg availability in the Congaree River habitat. In the adjacent Edisto River basin, floodwaters originate only within Coastal Plain sediments, maintaining upward hydraulic gradients even during flood events, promoting MeHg transport to the water column, and enhancing MeHg availability in the Edisto River habitat. These results indicate that flood hydrodynamics contribute to the variability in Hg vulnerability between Coastal Plain rivers and that comprehensive regional assessment of the relationship between flood hydrodynamics and Hg risk in Coastal Plain streams is warranted

    Optimizing Stream Water Mercury Sampling for Calculation of Fish Bioaccumulation Factors

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    Mercury (Hg) bioaccumulation factors (BAFs) for game fishes are widely employed for monitoring, assessment, and regulatory purposes. Mercury BAFs are calculated as the fish Hg concentration (Hg<sub>fish</sub>) divided by the water Hg concentration (Hg<sub>water</sub>) and, consequently, are sensitive to sampling and analysis artifacts for fish and water. We evaluated the influence of water sample timing, filtration, and mercury species on the modeled relation between game fish and water mercury concentrations across 11 streams and rivers in five states in order to identify optimum Hg<sub>water</sub> sampling approaches. Each model included fish trophic position, to account for a wide range of species collected among sites, and flow-weighted Hg<sub>water</sub> estimates. Models were evaluated for parsimony, using Akaike’s Information Criterion. Better models included filtered water methylmercury (FMeHg) or unfiltered water methylmercury (UMeHg), whereas filtered total mercury did not meet parsimony requirements. Models including mean annual FMeHg were superior to those with mean FMeHg calculated over shorter time periods throughout the year. FMeHg models including metrics of high concentrations (80th percentile and above) observed during the year performed better, in general. These higher concentrations occurred most often during the growing season at all sites. Streamflow was significantly related to the probability of achieving higher concentrations during the growing season at six sites, but the direction of influence varied among sites. These findings indicate that streamwater Hg collection can be optimized by evaluating site-specific FMeHg – UMeHg relations, intra-annual temporal variation in their concentrations, and streamflow-Hg dynamics

    Spatial and Seasonal Variability of Dissolved Methylmercury in Two Stream Basins in the Eastern United States

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    We assessed methylmercury (MeHg) concentrations across multiple ecological scales in the Edisto (South Carolina) and Upper Hudson (New York) River basins. Out-of-channel wetland/floodplain environments were primary sources of filtered MeHg (F-MeHg) to the stream habitat in both systems. Shallow, open-water areas in both basins exhibited low F-MeHg concentrations and decreasing F-MeHg mass flux. Downstream increases in out-of-channel wetlands/floodplains and the absence of impoundments result in high MeHg throughout the Edisto. Despite substantial wetlands coverage and elevated F-MeHg concentrations at the headwater margins, numerous impoundments on primary stream channels favor spatial variability and lower F-MeHg concentrations in the Upper Hudson. The results indicated that, even in geographically, climatically, and ecologically diverse streams, production in wetland/floodplain areas, hydrologic transport to the stream aquatic environment, and conservative/nonconservative attenuation processes in open water areas are fundamental controls on dissolved MeHg concentrations and, by extension, MeHg availability for potential biotic uptake

    Shallow Groundwater Mercury Supply in a Coastal Plain Stream

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    Fluvial methylmercury (MeHg) is attributed to methylation in up-gradient wetland areas. This hypothesis depends on efficient wetland-to-stream hydraulic transport under nonflood and flood conditions. Fluxes of water and dissolved (filtered) mercury (Hg) species (FMeHg and total Hg (FTHg)) were quantified in April and July of 2009 in a reach at McTier Creek, South Carolina to determine the relative importance of tributary surface water and shallow groundwater Hg transport from wetland/floodplain areas to the stream under nonflood conditions. The reach represented less than 6% of upstream main-channel distance and 2% of upstream basin area. Surface-water discharge increased within the reach by approximately 10%. Mean FMeHg and FTHg fluxes increased within the reach by 23–27% and 9–15%, respectively. Mass balances indicated that, under nonflood conditions, the primary supply of water, FMeHg, and FTHg within the reach (excluding upstream surface water influx) was groundwater discharge, rather than tributary transport from wetlands, in-stream MeHg production, or atmospheric Hg deposition. These results illustrate the importance of riparian wetland/floodplain areas as sources of fluvial MeHg and of groundwater Hg transport as a fundamental control on Hg supply to Coastal Plain streams

    Expanded Target-Chemical Analysis Reveals Extensive Mixed-Organic-Contaminant Exposure in U.S. Streams

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    Surface water from 38 streams nationwide was assessed using 14 target-organic methods (719 compounds). Designed-bioactive anthropogenic contaminants (biocides, pharmaceuticals) comprised 57% of 406 organics detected at least once. The 10 most-frequently detected anthropogenic-organics included eight pesticides (desulfinylfipronil, AMPA, chlorpyrifos, dieldrin, metolachlor, atrazine, CIAT, glyphosate) and two pharmaceuticals (caffeine, metformin) with detection frequencies ranging 66–84% of all sites. Detected contaminant concentrations varied from less than 1 ng L<sup>–1</sup> to greater than 10 μg L<sup>–1</sup>, with 77 and 278 having median detected concentrations greater than 100 ng L<sup>–1</sup> and 10 ng L<sup>–1</sup>, respectively. Cumulative detections and concentrations ranged 4–161 compounds (median 70) and 8.5–102 847 ng L<sup>–1</sup>, respectively, and correlated significantly with wastewater discharge, watershed development, and toxic release inventory metrics. Log<sub>10</sub> concentrations of widely monitored HHCB, triclosan, and carbamazepine explained 71–82% of the variability in the total number of compounds detected (linear regression; <i>p</i>-values: < 0.001–0.012), providing a statistical inference tool for unmonitored contaminants. Due to multiple modes of action, high bioactivity, biorecalcitrance, and direct environment application (pesticides), designed-bioactive organics (median 41 per site at μg L<sup>–1</sup> cumulative concentrations) in developed watersheds present aquatic health concerns, given their acknowledged potential for sublethal effects to sensitive species and lifecycle stages at low ng L<sup>–1</sup>