Mercury sorption to sediments: Dependence on grain size, dissolved organic carbon, and suspended bacteria.
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A combination of laboratory scale derived correlations and measurements of grain size distribution, DOC (dissolved organic carbon) concentration, and density of suspended bacteria promises to be useful in estimating Hg(II) sorption in heterogeneous streambeds and groundwater environments. This was found by shaking intact sediment and fractions thereof (<63-2000mum) with solutions of HgCl(2) (1.0-10.0ngml(-1)). The intact sediment was also shaken with the Hg(II) solutions separately in presence of DOC (6.5-90.2mugml(-1)) or brought in contact with suspensions of a strain of groundwater bacteria (2x10(4)-2x10(6)cellsml(-1)). Hg(II) sorption was rather weak and positively correlated with the grain size, and the sorption coefficient (K(d)) varied between about 300 and 600mlg(-1). By using the relative surface areas of the fractions, K(d) for the intact sediment was back calculated with 2% deviation. K(d) was negatively correlated with the concentration of DOC and positively correlated with the number of bacteria. A multiple regression showed that K(d) was significantly more influenced by the number of bacteria than by the grain size. The findings imply that common DOC concentrations in groundwater and streambeds, 5-20mugml(-1), will halve the K(d) obtained from standard sorption assays of Hg(II), and that K(d) will almost double when the cell numbers are doubled at densities that are common in aquifers. The findings suggest that simultaneous measurements of surface areas of sediment particles, DOC concentrations, and bacterial numbers are useful to predict spatial variation of Hg(II) sorption in aquifers and sandy sediments.