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Open-File Report 2007-1240

U.S. GEOLOGICAL SURVEY
Open-File Report 2007-1240

Legacy Mercury in Alviso Slough, South San Francisco Bay, California: Concentration, Speciation and Mobility

By Mark Marvin-DiPasquale and Marisa H. Cox

Abstract

Mercury (Hg) is a significant contaminant in the waters, sediment and biota of San Francisco Bay, largely resulting from extensive historic regional mining activities. Alviso Slough represents one of the most mercury contaminated waterways entering south San Francisco Bay, as it is associated with the drainage of the New Almaden mercury mining district. Wetland habitat restoration of former salt manufacturing ponds adjacent to Alviso Slough is currently being planned. One management scenario being considered is a levee breach between Alviso Slough and Pond A8, which will allow reconnection of the salt pond with the tidal slough. This action is projected to increase the tidal prism within Alviso Slough and result in some degree of sediment remobilization as the main channel deepens and widens. The focus of the current study is to assess: a) the current mercury species composition and concentration in sediments within the Alviso Slough main channel and its associated fringing marsh plain, b) how much of each mercury species will be mobilized as a result of projected channel deepening and widening, and c) potential changes in inorganic ‘reactive’ mercury bioavailability (for conversion to toxic methylmercury) associated with the mobilized sediment fraction. The current report details the field sampling approach and all laboratory analyses conducted, as well as provides the complete dataset associated with this project including a) a quantitative assessment of mercury speciation (total mercury, reactive mercury and methylmercury), b) estimates of the quantity of sediment and mercury mobilized based on 20-foot and 40-foot levee wall notch scenarios, and c) results from a sediment scour experiment examining the changes in the reactive mercury pool under four treatment conditions (high / low salinity and oxic / anoxic water). Ancillary sediment data also collected and reported herein include bulk density, organic content, magnetic susceptibility, percent dry weight, grain size, pH, oxidation-reduction potential, core photography, and detailed lithographic descriptions.

Contents

Abstract
Introduction
Methods
Results
Acknowledgments
References
Figures
Tables
Appendix A. Sediment core descriptions, Alviso Slough, September 2006

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