U.S. Department of Energy Office of Biological and Environmental Research

BER Research Highlights

Common Mineral Alters Fate of Mercury in Contaminated Sediments
Published: August 24, 2009
Posted: August 27, 2009

Mercury (Hg) contamination is a significant environmental concern due to its toxicity and is one of the most challenging remediation challenges at DOE's Oak Ridge site.  Ionic mercury (Hg[II]) can be transformed by anaerobic bacteria in anoxic soils and sediments to methylmercury (MeHg), a potent neurotoxin.  MeHg accumulates in ecological food chains and can be readily detected in fish tissues in contaminated streams and rivers. Reducing the levels of Hg(II) in contaminated soils decreases the potential for forming MeHg.  Researchers at Rutgers University and Pacific Northwest National Laboratory show that Hg(II) can be reduced to elemental Hg(0) by magnetite, a mineral commonly found in anoxic sediments.  The results demonstrate a potentially important mechanism of Hg(II) reduction needed to better understand the fate of Hg in contaminated environments and improve predictions of MeHg production in anoxic sediments.   

Reference:  Environ. Sci. Technol., 2009, 43(14): 5307-5313 

Contact: Robert T. Anderson, SC 23.1, (301) 903-5549
Topic Areas:

  • Research Area: Subsurface Biogeochemical Research
  • Research Area: Microbes and Communities

Division: SC-23.1 Climate and Environmental Sciences Division, BER


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