Northeastern Section (45th Annual) and Southeastern Section (59th Annual) Joint Meeting (13-16 March 2010)

Paper No. 6
Presentation Time: 3:35 PM


BRADLEY, Paul M.1, JOURNEY, Celeste A.1, CONRADS, Paul A.1, CHAPELLE, Francis H.1 and LOWERY, Mark A.2, (1)US Geological Survey, 720 Gracern Rd, Suite 129, Columbia, SC 29210, (2)U.S. Geological Survey, 720 Gracern Road, Suite 129, Columbia, SC 29210,

Fish-tissue mercury concentrations (approximately 2 micrograms per gram) in the Edisto River basin of South Carolina are among the highest recorded in the United States. Substantially lower mercury concentrations (approximately 0.2 microgram per gram) are reported in fish from the adjacent Congaree River sub-basin and the Congaree National Park.

Concentrations of total mercury were statistically higher in sediments from the Congaree River compared with those in sediments from the Edisto River. No statistically significant differences were observed in concentrations of methylmercury or in the range of net methyla­tion potentials in sediments collected from various Edisto and Congaree hydrologic settings. In both systems, net methylation potentials were an order of magnitude or more lower in stream-channel sediments than in wetland sediments. These results are not consistent with the hypothesis that differences in fish-tissue mercury between the Edisto and Congaree basins reflect fundamental differences in the potential for each system to methylate mercury.

The marked differences in net methylation potential observed between the wetland and in-stream settings suggested an alternative hypothesis: differences in the efficiency of methylmercury transport from zones of production (wetlands) to points of entry into the food chain (channels) contrib­ute to the observed differences in fish-tissue mercury concen­trations between the two river systems. An assessment of the flood hydrodynamics of these two rivers is consistent with the alternative hypothesis.