SREL Reprint #2848




Mercury body burdens in Gambusia holbrooki and Erimyzon sucetta in a wetland mesocosm amended with sulfate

S.M. Harmon1, J.K. King2, J.B. Gladden3, G.T. Chandler1, and L.A. Newman1,4

1Department of Environmental Health Sciences, Arnold School of Public Health,
University of South Carolina, Columbia, SC 29208, USA
2US Army Corps of Engineers, 100 West Oglethorpe Avenue, Savannah, GA 31402, USA
3Westinghouse Savannah River Company, Aiken, SC 29808, USA
4University of Georgia, Savannah River Ecology Laboratory, Drawer E, Aiken, SC 29808, USA

Abstract: This study used an experimental model of a constructed wetland to evaluate the risk of mercury methylation when the soil is amended with sulfate. The model was planted with Schoenoplectus californicus and designed to reduce copper, mercury, and metal-related toxicity in a wastestream. The sediments of the model were varied during construction to provide a control and two levels of sulfate treatment, thus allowing characterization of sulfate's effect on mercury methylation and bioaccumulation in periphyton and two species of fish—eastern mosquitofish (Gambusia holbrooki) and lake chubsucker (Erimyzon sucetta). After one year in the experimental model, mean dry-weight normalized total mercury concentrations in mosquitofish from the non-sulfate treated controls (374 ± 77 ng/g) and the reference location (233 ± 17 ng/g) were significantly lower than those from the low and high sulfate treatments (520 ± 73 and 613 ± 80 ng/g, respectively). For lake chubsucker, mean total mercury concentration in fish from the high sulfate treatment (276 ± 63 ng/g) was significantly elevated over that observed in the control (109 ± 47 ng/g), the low sulfate treatment (122 ± 42 ng/g), and the reference population (41 ± 2 ng/g). Mercury in periphyton was mostly inorganic as methylmercury ranged from 6.6 ng/g (dry weight) in the control to 9.8 ng/g in the high sulfate treatment, while total mercury concentrations ranged from 1147 ng/g in the control to a high of 1297 ng/g in the low sulfate treatment. Fish methylmercury bioaccumulation factors from sediment ranged from 52 to 390 and from 495 to 3059 for water. These results suggest that sulfate treatments add a factor of risk due to elevated production of methylmercury in sediment and porewater which biomagnified into small fish, and may potentially increase through the food web.

Keywords: Mercury; Methylmercury; Gambusia holbrooki; Erimyzon sucetta; Sulfate

SREL Reprint #2848

Harmon, S. M., J. K. King, J. B. Gladden, G. T. Chandler, and L. A. Newman. 2005. Mercury body burdens in Gambusia holbrooki and Erimyzon sucetta in a wetland mesocosm amended with sulfate. Chemosphere 59:227-233.

To request a reprint