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Reconnaissance of Mercury in Lakes, Wetlands, and RiversReconnaissance of Mercury in Lakes, Wetlands, and Rivers in the Red River of the North Basin, North Dakota, March Through August 2001

Water-Resources Investigations Report 03-4078

 

By Steven K. Sando, G.J. Wiche, R.F. Lundgren, and Bradley A. Sether

 

Prepared in cooperation with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers

 


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Abstract

Devils Lake rose dramatically during the 1990's, causing extensive flood damages. Because of the potential for continued flooding, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has been conducting studies to evaluate the feasibility of constructing and operating an outlet from Devils Lake. The occurrence of mercury in lakes, wetlands, and rivers and the potential for increased loading of mercury into the Sheyenne River as a result of a Devils Lake outlet needed to be evaluated as part of the studies.

 

Sixteen lake, wetland, and river sites in the Devils Lake, Sheyenne River, Red River of the North, and Red Lake River Basins were sampled and analyzed for mercury constituents and other selected properties and constituents relevant to mercury aquatic chemistry. For the lake and wetland sites, whole-water methylmercury concentrations ranged from less than 0.04 to 3.53 nanograms per liter and whole-water total mercury concentrations ranged from 0.38 to 7.02 nanograms per liter. Conditions favorable for methylation of mercury generally exist at the lake and wetland sites, as indicated by larger dissolved methylmercury concentrations in near-bottom samples than in near-surface samples and by relatively large ratios of methylmercury to total mercury (generally greater than 10 percent for the summer sampling period). Total mercury concentrations were larger for the summer sampling period than for the winter sampling period for all lake and wetland sites. A wetland site in the upper Devils Lake Basin had the largest mercury concentrations for the lake and wetland sites.

 

For the river sites, whole-water methylmercury concentrations ranged from 0.15 to 1.13 nanograms per liter and whole-water total mercury concentrations ranged from 2.00 to 26.90 nanograms per liter. Most of the mercury for the river sites occurred in particulate inorganic phase. Summer ratios of whole-water methylmercury to whole-water total mercury were 35 percent for Starkweather Coulee (a wetland-dominated site), near or less than 10 percent for the Sheyenne River sites, and less than 8 percent for the Red River of the North and Red Lake River sites.

Although the number of samples collected during this investigation is small, results indicated an outlet from Devils Lake probably would not have adverse effects on mercury concentrations in the Sheyenne River upstream from Lake Ashtabula. However, because discharges in the Sheyenne River would increase during some periods, loads of mercury entering Lake Ashtabula also would increase. Lake Ashtabula probably serves as a sink for suspended sediment and mercury. Thus, a Devils Lake outlet probably would not have substantial effects on mercury concentrations and loads in the downstream part of the Sheyenne River or in the Red River of the North. More substantial effects could occur for Lake Ashtabula.

 

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Table of Contents

Abstract

Introduction

Description of study area

Methods of study

Sample collection, processing, and analysis

Quality assurance/quality control

Estimation of masses and loads

Results for quality-assurance/quality-control samples and for selected properties and constituents

Quality-assurance/quality-control samples

Field-measured properties and constituents

Major-ion, trace-element, and suspended-sediment constituents

Organic-carbon constituents

Mercury constituents in lakes, wetlands, and rivers

Lakes and wetlands

Rivers

Possible effects from Devils Lake outlet

Summary and conclusions

References

Supplement 1. Results for field-measured properties and constituents for lake and wetland sites

Supplement 2. Results for field-measured properties and constituents for river sites

Supplement 3. Results for major-ion, trace-element, and suspended-sediment constituents for lake and wetland sites

Supplement 4. Results for major-ion, trace-element, and suspended-sediment constituents for river sites

Supplement 5. Results for mercury and organic-carbon constituents for lake and wetland sites

Supplement 6. Results for mercury and organic-carbon constituents for river sites

Figures

  1. Map showing location of study area and water-quality sampling sites
  2. Graphs showing vertical profiles of field-measured properties and constituents at a representative deep lake site (site 5, Devils Lake Main Bay)
  3. Graphs showing vertical profiles of field-measured properties and constituents at a representative shallow lake site (site 4, Devils Lake West Bay southwest)
  4. Stiff diagrams showing average dissolved-solids concentrations and ionic proportions for water-quality sampling sites
  5. Graphs showing concentrations of suspended sediment and organic carbon for river sites
  6. Graphs showing concentrations of organic carbon for lake and wetland sites
  7. Graphs showing concentrations of methylmercury and ratios of whole-water methylmercury to whole-water total mercury for lake and wetland sites
  8. Graphs showing concentrations of total mercury for lake and wetland sites
  9. Graphs showing masses of mercury constituents for lake and wetland sites
  10. Graphs showing concentrations of methylmercury and ratios of whole-water methylmercury to whole-water total mercury for river sites
  11. Graphs showing concentrations of total mercury for river sites
  12. Graphs showing loads of mercury constituents for river sites
  13. Graph showing discharge and times of sampling for the Sheyenne River, Red River of the North, and Red Lake River sites

Tables

  1. Water-quality sampling sites
  2. Properties and constituents for which water-quality samples were analyzed
  3. Concentrations of mercury and organic-carbon constituents in quality-assurance/quality-control field-equipment blank samples
  4. Analytical results for primary environmental samples and for quality-assurance/quality-control replicate samples for major-ion and trace-element constituents
  5. Analytical results for primary environmental samples and for quality-assurance/quality-control replicate samples for mercury and organic-carbon constituents
  6. Concentrations of mercury constituents for Devils Lake and Lake Ashtabula, 1991-93
  7. Concentrations of mercury constituents for selected lakes in the Devils Lake and Sheyenne River Basins, 1991-93
  8. Statistically significant results of Spearman's rank-correlation procedure to investigate relations between mercury constituents and other water-quality properties and constituents for lake and wetland sites
  9. Nonexceedance frequencies for discharges at time of sampling for river sites
  10. Statistically significant results of Spearman's rank-correlation procedure to investigate relations between mercury constituents and other water-quality properties and constituents for river sites

 

 

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