Mercury stable isotope abundances were used to trace transport of Hg-impacted river sediment near a coal ash spill at Harriman, Tennessee, USA. δ202Hg values for Kingston coal ash released into the Emory River in 2008 are significantly negative (-1.78 ± 0.35%), whereas sediments of the Clinch River, into which the Emory River flows, are contaminated by an additional Hg source (potentially from the Y-12 complex near Oak Ridge, Tennessee) with near-zero values (-0.23 ± 0.16%). Nominally uncontaminated Emory River sediments (12 miles upstream from the Emory-Clinch confluence) have intermediate values (-1.17 ± 0.13%) and contain lower Hg concentrations. Emory River mile 10 sediments, possibly impacted by an old paper mill has δ202Hg values of -0.47 ± 0.04%. A mixing model, using δ202Hg values and Hg concentrations, yielded estimates of the relative contributions of coal ash, Clinch River, and Emory River sediments for a suite of 71 sediment samples taken over a 30 month time period from 13 locations. Emory River samples, with two exceptions, are unaffected by Clinch River sediment, despite occasional upstream flow from the Clinch River. As expected, Clinch River sediment below its confluence with the Emory River are affected by Kingston coal ash; however, the relative contribution of the coal ash varies among sampling sites.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Environmental Chemistry