Rémy, Sandrine and Probst, Jean-Luc and Prudent, Pascale and Krempp, Gérard Mercury contents and speciation in soils and river waters of an industrialised catchment, the Thur river basin (Alsace) Contribution of the atmospheric deposition. (2002) Pollution atmosphérique (n°173). pp. 123-135. ISSN 0032-3632
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River water, river sediment and soil samples were collected from the industrialised Thur river basin (north-eastern France) to assess the current extent of total mercury and methylmercury (MeHg) contamination. A high performance liquid chromatography (HPLC) method, coupled with an online Atomic Fluorescence Spectrometry after post colum oxidation of the organomercury compounds by UV light irradiation and cold vapour generation (CV-AFS), was developed for mercury speciation. The regional geochemical background level of mercury has been first evaluated to calculate total mercury contamination factors (CF) in soils and river sediments. It was estimated to 232 ng.g-1 for river sediments and soils not affected by anthropogenic activities. The highest contamination factors have been estimated for the riverine sediments (CF=1 782) receiving the industrial waste effluent of a chlor-alkali plant. Contamination factors of surficial soils located 1km around the industrial site range from 6.2 to 55.3. This contamination could be attributed to diffuse atmospheric deposition from the local industry. Mercury contamination in the different horizons of alluvial soils is not correlated with particulate organic carbon content but rather with historical accidental mercury pollution coming from the deposition of contaminated sediments settled from the Thur river during flood periods. First results on mercury speciation show that the proportion of MeHg in alluvial and industrial soils averages 0.03 to 0.15% of total Hg. Dissolved organic Hg represents the major component of total dissolved Hg in the river water and its proportion (70-100%) is seasonally variable.
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