Assessment of Historical and Current Trends in Mercury Deposition to New Jersey Aquatic Systems through Analysis of Sediment/Soil Cores: Research Project Summary



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Trenton, N.J. : New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection, Division of Science, Research and Technology


Atmospheric deposition is an important source of mercury to aquatic and terrestrial ecosystems and has global, regional, and local components. Deposition of mercury to waterbodies in New Jersey has resulted in elevated levels of mercury in fish across the state. Potentially significant sources of mercury to waterbodies in New Jersey include coal-burning power plants, municipal solid waste incineration, and metal smelting. Analysis of dated sediment cores has been a most useful tool for documenting historical changes in atmospheric mercury fluxes to waterbodies. This is the first study to analyze sediment cores to estimate the historic pattern of mercury to New Jersey aquatic systems. The objectives were to identify and characterize the extent of atmospheric mercury deposition to New Jersey aquatic systems and to identify indications of local sources of mercury contribution to these systems. Sediment core samples were taken from five lakes and one coastal marsh, dated based on radionuclide analyses, and analyzed for total mercury. The results indicated that mercury fluxes have generally decreased since an historic high rate in the late 1940s. Mercury fluxes were, however, still significantly elevated at most sites compared with estimates of mercury fluxes in remote areas in North America receiving background mercury deposition. However, the results in NJ lakes are comparable to recent mercury fluxes to the Great Lakes suggesting a large-scale regional influence. One site, Woodcliff Lake in northeastern NJ, had particularly elevated fluxes of mercury similar to Central Park Lake, NY and future efforts will be directed to determine if the mercury deposition to these water bodies reflects a more localized area of elevated mercury deposition, and if so, to provide information on its likely sources.


Prepared by Amy E. Kroenke, B.S., Edward L. Shuster, Ph.D.,Richard F. Bopp, Ph.D. Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences, 110 Eighth Street, Troy, NY, 12180 and Mary Downes Gastrich, Ph.D., Research Scientist and Project Manager, New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection, Division of Science, Research and Technology.


New Jersey, Mercury - Environmental aspects, Atmospheric deposition, Lakes - New Jersey