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Title: Evaluation of Lower East Fork Poplar Creek Mercury Sources

This report summarizes a 3-year research project undertaken to better understand the nature and magnitude of mercury (Hg) fluxes in East Fork Poplar Creek (EFPC). This project addresses the requirements of Action Plan 1 in the 2011 Oak Ridge Reservation-wide Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act Five Year Review (FYR). The Action Plan is designed to address a twofold 2011 FYR issue: (1) new information suggests mobilization of mercury from the upper and lower EFPC streambeds and stream banks is the primary source of mercury export during high-flow conditions, and (2) the current Record of Decision did not address the entire hydrologic system and creek bank or creek bed sediments. To obtain a more robust watershed-scale understanding of mercury sources and processes in lower EFPC (LEFPC), new field and laboratory studies were coupled with existing data from multiple US Department of Energy programs to develop a dynamic watershed and bioaccumulation model. LEFPC field studies for the project focused primarily on quantification of streambank erosion and an evaluation of mercury dynamics in shallow groundwater adjacent to LEFPC and potential connection to the surface water. The approach to the stream bank study was innovative in using imagery from kayak floats’ surveysmore » from the headwaters to the mouth of EFPC to estimate erosion, coupled with detailed bank soil mercury analyses. The goal of new field assessments and modeling was to generate a more holistic and quantitative understanding of the watershed and the sources, flux, concentration, transformation, and bioaccumulation of inorganic mercury (IHg) and methylmercury (MeHg). Model development used a hybrid approach that dynamically linked a spreadsheet-based physical and chemical watershed model to a systems dynamics, mercury bioaccumulation model for key fish species. The watershed model tracks total Hg and MeHg fluxes and concentrations by examining upstream inputs, floodplain runoff, floodplain leaching, bank soil erosion, and periphyton matrix dynamics. The bioaccumulation model tracks the feeding, growth, and mercury assimilation of representative individual fish through their typical life span using key inputs of fish size, water temperature, and diet. The LEFPC watershed was divided into five modeling reaches, and fluxes and concentrations are assessed at this spatial scale. Following are the key findings of the field and laboratory studies and the watershed and bioaccumulation modeling: • The greatest flux of total mercury (HgT) in LEFPC is related to stormflow transport of Hg-contaminated solids entering the creek because of bank erosion in the upper reaches of the creek. • The second greatest flux originates from upper EFPC (Station 17 representing the exit stream sampling point near the boundary of the Y-12 Complex), and appears to control base flow fluxes. • The observed increase in MeHg concentration and flux from upstream to downstream is related primarily to instream methylation by periphyton and other biological activity. • A meaningful substantial reduction of the HgT flux in LEFPC would require addressing the flux of HgT originating from bank erosion and from Station 17. • Actions to reduce LEFPC floodplain leaching and runoff would not produce much of an impact on HgT or MeHg concentrations or fluxes unless other major sources are eliminated first. This project addresses the Action Plan goal to evaluate the role of LEFPC bank soil sources and to consider the entire EFPC hydrologic system. Model conclusions are dependent on the data available at the time of this assessment. However, a robust understanding and quantification for some mercury-related parameters and relationships is still lacking; there is a continued need for field data collection and modeling improvements. Model predictions should be viewed cautiously, with comparisons of the magnitude of predictions between scenarios being more valid than absolute predictions of concentrations or fluxes. With continued updates and refinement, the watershed-scale model can be a useful, valuable tool for future EFPC research prioritization, technology development, and remedial decision-making.« less
Authors:
 [1] ;  [1] ;  [1] ;  [1] ;  [1] ;  [1] ;  [1] ;  [2]
  1. Oak Ridge National Lab. (ORNL), Oak Ridge, TN (United States)
  2. East Tennessee Technology Park (ETTP), Oak Ridge, TN (United States)
Publication Date:
OSTI Identifier:
1257903
Report Number(s):
ORNL/TM--2016/134
TRN: US1601499
DOE Contract Number:
AC05-00OR22725
Resource Type:
Technical Report
Research Org:
Oak Ridge National Lab. (ORNL), Oak Ridge, TN (United States)
Sponsoring Org:
USDOE
Country of Publication:
United States
Language:
English
Subject:
54 ENVIRONMENTAL SCIENCES; 58 GEOSCIENCES; MERCURY; GROUND WATER; STREAMS; COMPARATIVE EVALUATIONS; CONCENTRATION RATIO; ECOLOGICAL CONCENTRATION; WATERSHEDS; BIOLOGICAL ACCUMULATION; OAK RIDGE RESERVATION; RUNOFF; ABUNDANCE; EROSION; FISHES; SIMULATION; AUFWUCHS; LEACHING; FORECASTING; METHYLMERCURY; SOILS; SCALE MODELS; METHYLATION; ASSIMILATION; DIET; FEEDING; GROWTH; SEDIMENTS; SURFACES; TRANSFORMATIONS; ENVIRONMENTAL TRANSPORT