Water Resources Engineering (WRE) connects engineering hydrology and hydraulics with global, economic, environmental, and societal issues. Our student Eric Dienst makes this connection here.

In the Feburary 16, 2012 Environmental Science & Technology news article,  “Decline of Acid Rain Enhances Mercury Concentrations in Fish”. This Water Resource Engineering article is a hydrology issue dealing with the distribution of pollutants and other water quality issues. In Norway and in other parts of Europe there has been a spike in mercury concentrations in fish despite an overall decrease in acidic deposition. There has been an increase in lakes’ water color and Total Organic Carbon concentrations, this is known to facilitate in the transport of heavy metals, like mercury in water.  This story accurately represents the water resources engineering fact that coal-fired power plants are a major source of pollution for mercury in fish (National Resources Defense Council). Also it accurately represents the fact that mercury cycles through the environment and is highly affected by organic carbon content (USGS).

The article left out data, and other graphs which would have FURTHER supported their claims.

The issues with increasing levels of mercury coupled with decreases in acid rain concentration are seen all around the world. The authors describe cases in Europe, but other cases in the Adirondacks have been cited as well. This also has a lot of effects on the environment. The environmental impacts are related to fish, wildlife, and other biotics in the ecosystem both in and around the lakes. The attached article relates to environmental impacts because it discusses how concentrations of mercury in fish are rising primarily due to increases in Total Organic Carbon (TOC). These increases in mercury can move up the food chain and eventually be toxic to both humans and other wildlife. Author Marla Cone describes how mercury levels in the Pacific Ocean will rise by around 50% in her article “Big increase in ocean mercury found; study predicts more human threat from fish”. TOC sediment from formally acidified lakes has been exported into the lakes due to decreased levels of ions like hydrogen (higher pH). As a result this has caused a large increase in the mercury concentrations in local fish. This relationship can be seen in Figure 1 below which shows the site location as well as an increasing trend in mercury concentrations in fish.

Figure 1: This image was found in the article. It represents increases in lake water TOC and how that has also caused significant percentage increases of Hg in fish.


National Resources Defense Council http://www.nrdc.org/health/effects/mercury/sources.asp

Cone, Marla “Big increase in ocean mercury found; study predicts more human threat from fish” http://www.environmentalhealthnews.org/ehs/news/ocean-mercury-increasing. Environment Health News

Hongve, D.; Haaland, S.; Riise, G.; Blakar, I.; Norton, S. Decline of acid rain

enhances mercury concentrations in fish. Environ. Sci. Technol. 2012, 46, (5), 2490-2491.

U.S Geological Survey http://water.usgs.gov/wid/FS_216-95/FS_216-95.html