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Mercury in the Sudbury River (Massachusetts, USA): pollution history and a synthesis of recent research

Wiener, J. G., and Shields, P. J., 2000, Mercury in the Sudbury River (Massachusetts, USA): pollution history and a synthesis of recent research: Canadian Journal of Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences, v. 57, no. 5, p. 1053-1061.


We review the transport, fate, and bioavailability of mercury in the Sudbury River, topics addressed in the following five papers. Mercury entered the river from an industrial complex (site) that operated from 1917 to 1978. Rates of mercury accumulation in sediment cores from two reservoirs just downstream from the site decreased soon after industrial operations ended and have decreased further since capping of contaminated soils at the site in 1991. The reservoirs contained the most contaminated sediments (some exceeding 50 µ g Hg·g dry weight-1 and were depositional sinks for total mercury. Methyl mercury concentrations in biota did not parallel concentrations of total mercury in the sediments to which organisms were exposed, experimentally or as residents. Contaminated wetlands within the floodplain about 25 km downstream from the site produced and exported methyl mercury from inorganic mercury that had originated from the site. Natural burial processes have gradually decreased the quantity of sedimentary mercury available for methylation within the reservoirs, whereas mercury in the lesser contaminated wetlands farther downstream has remained more available for transport, methylation, and entry into food webs.


Fresh-water ecosystems, Canadian Shield Lakes, methyl mercury, Gavia immer, methylmercury, Wisconsin, exposure, fish, acidification, sediments

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