Water Resources Research Act Program

Details for Project ID 2017NJ394B

Mercury (Hg) Flux at the Sediment-Water Interface: The Effect of Microbial Hg(0) Oxidation

Institute: New Jersey
Year Established: 2017 Start Date: 2017-03-01 End Date: 2018-02-28
Total Federal Funds: $5,000 Total Non-Federal Funds: $10,000

Principal Investigators: Yuwei Wang, Nathan Yee

Abstract: The historic disposal of industrial elemental mercury [Hg(0)] wastes in New Jersey has caused significant water contamination issues. Methylation of mercury contaminants in anoxic sediments by anaerobic bacteria results in the formation of neurotoxic methylmercury which can pose a serious threat to water quality and the health of aquatic wildlife. In sediments, the oxidation of Hg(0) to ionic mercury [Hg(II)] is a critical step in the production of methylmercury. In this study, I will examine the potential for microorganisms in sediments to oxidize Hg(0). I will isolate anaerobic bacteria from mercury contaminated sediments near Berry’s Creek-Ventron/Velsicol Site in New Jersey. I will then conduct Hg(0) oxidation experiments with the bacterial isolates and determine the rate constants for Hg(0) oxidation. The kinetic data obtained from the experiments will be used to constrain the influence of microbes on Hg(0) oxidation and Hg(0) flux at the sediment-water interface. The results of this study will elucidate the role microbial Hg(0) oxidation in sediments which may have been previously underestimated.