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Protocol to Reconstruct Historical Contaminant Loading to Large Lakes: The Lake Michigan Sediment Record of Mercury

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journal contribution
posted on 01.02.2010, 00:00 by Ronald Rossmann
Samples of opportunity from Pb-210 dated sediment cores collected from Lake Michigan between 1994 and 1996 were analyzed for mercury. The storage of anthropogenic and total (post-1850) mercury in the lake is calculated to be 186 and 228 t, respectively. By setting the sum of mercury stored in a representative core equal to the mercury storage within the entire lake, the time variation of annual mercury loading to the lake is calculated. The modern (1980−2002) mercury flux to the lake represented by the surface of the core at the time of collection in 1994 was 21.4 μg/m2/y. The preindustrial flux (≤1850) was 3.09 μg/m2/y, and the peak flux in 1946 was 53.3 μg/m2/y. These yield modern and peak enrichment factors of 6.92 and 17.2, respectively. Modern fluxes exceed published atmospheric deposition estimates and, therefore, include terrestrial point sources, atmospheric deposition to watersheds, and atmospheric deposition to the lake. The modern net mercury load to the lake’s sediments was 1157 kg/y in 1994. The atmosphere is estimated to contribute 91% of this load directly to the lake.