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Scientific Investigations Report 2012–5223

Prepared in cooperation with the Department of the Navy Naval Facilities Engineering Command, Northwest

Sources and Sinks of Filtered Total Mercury and Concentrations of Total Mercury of Solids and of Filtered Methylmercury, Sinclair Inlet, Kitsap County, Washington, 2007–10

By Anthony J. Paulson, Richard S. Dinicola, Marlene A. Noble, Richard J. Wagner, Raegan L. Huffman, Patrick W. Moran, and John F. DeWild


The majority of filtered total mercury in the marine water of Sinclair Inlet originates from salt water flowing from Puget Sound. About 420 grams of filtered total mercury are added to Sinclair Inlet each year from atmospheric, terrestrial, and sedimentary sources, which has increased filtered total mercury concentrations in Sinclair Inlet (0.33 nanograms per liter) to concentrations greater than those of the Puget Sound (0.2 nanograms per liter). The category with the largest loading of filtered total mercury to Sinclair Inlet included diffusion of porewaters from marine sediment to the water column of Sinclair Inlet and discharge through the largest stormwater drain on the Bremerton naval complex, Bremerton, Washington. However, few data are available to estimate porewater and stormwater releases with any certainty. The release from the stormwater drain does not originate from overland flow of stormwater. Rather total mercury on soils is extracted by the chloride ions in seawater as the stormwater is drained and adjacent soils are flushed with seawater by tidal pumping. Filtered total mercury released by an unknown freshwater mechanism also was observed in the stormwater flowing through this drain.

Direct atmospheric deposition on the Sinclair Inlet, freshwater discharge from creek and stormwater basins draining into Sinclair Inlet, and saline discharges from the dry dock sumps of the naval complex are included in the next largest loading category of sources of filtered total mercury. Individual discharges from a municipal wastewater treatment plant and from the industrial steam plant of the naval complex constituted the loading category with the third largest loadings. Stormwater discharge from the shipyard portion of the naval complex and groundwater discharge from the base are included in the loading category with the smallest loading of filtered total mercury.

Presently, the origins of the solids depositing to the sediment of Sinclair Inlet are uncertain, and consequently, concentrations of sediments can be qualitatively compared only to total mercury concentrations of solids suspended in the water column. Concentrations of total mercury of suspended solids from creeks, stormwater, and even wastewater effluent discharging into greater Sinclair Inlet were comparable to concentrations of solids suspended in the water column of Sinclair Inlet. Concentrations of total mercury of suspended solids were significantly lower than those of marine bed sediment of Sinclair Inlet; these suspended solids have been shown to settle in Sinclair Inlet. The settling of suspended solids in the greater Sinclair Inlet and in Operable Unit B Marine of the naval complex likely will result in lower concentrations of total mercury in sediments. Such a decrease in total mercury concentrations was observed in the sediment of Operable Unit B Marine in 2010. However, total mercury concentrations of solids discharged from several sources from the Bremerton naval complex were higher than concentrations in sediment collected from Operable Unit B Marine. The combined loading of solids from these sources is small compared to the amount of solids depositing in OU B Marine. However, total mercury concentration in sediment collected at a monitoring station just offshore one of these sources, the largest stormwater drain on the Bremerton naval complex, increased considerably in 2010.

Low methylmercury concentrations were detected in groundwater, stormwater, and effluents discharged from the Bremerton naval complex. The highest methylmercury concentrations were measured in the porewaters of highly reducing marine sediment in greater Sinclair Inlet. The marine sediment collected off the largest stormwater drain contained low concentrations of methylmercury in porewater because these sediments were not highly reducing.

First posted December 21, 2012

For additional information contact:
Director, Washington Water Science Center
U.S. Geological Survey
934 Broadway, Suite 300
Tacoma, Washington 98402

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Suggested citation:

Paulson, A.J., Dinicola, R.S., Noble, M.A., Wagner, R.J., Huffman, R.L., Moran, P.W., and DeWild, J.F., 2012, Sources and sinks of filtered total mercury and concentrations of total mercury of solids and of filtered methylmercury, Sinclair Inlet, Kitsap County, Washington, 2007–10: U.S. Geological Survey Scientific Investigations Report 2012‑5223, 94 p.




Study Area

History of Remediation and Environmental Investigations Related to Mercury

Synthesis of Existing Data

Methods for USGS Sampling

Mass Balance of Water, Salt, and Total Suspended Solids in Sinclair Inlet

Rationale for Separate Mass Balances of Dissolved and Particulate Mercury in Sinclair Inlet

Sources and Sinks of Filtered Total Mercury to Sinclair Inlet

Concentrations of Total Mercury of Solids Discharged to Sinclair Inlet

Methylmercury in the Sinclair Inlet Drainage Basin

Observations Indicating the Need for Further Study



References Cited

Appendix A. Data From U.S. Navy and Environmental Investment Projects

Appendix B. Calculation of Sedimentation of Solids in Sinclair Inlet

Appendix C. Calculation of Total Mercury Concentrations of Solids

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