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Journal of Environmental Quality Abstract -

Characterization of Mercury in a Riverwash Soil1


This article in JEQ

  1. Vol. 10 No. 3, p. 333-337
    Received: July 21, 1980

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  1. J. B. Harsh and
  2. H. E. Doner2



The extent of cinnabar (α-HgS) degradation in a riverwash soil polluted by Hg mining waste was evaluated by determination of persistent α-HgS and Hg liberated from the mineral. The soil was sequentially extracted to determine soluble, exchangeable, manganese-oxide-associated, and free iron-oxide-associated Hg. DTPA, 0.5N NaHCO3, and 0.5N and 1.0N HCl were used to determine available, weakly organic-bound, and strongly adsorbed Hg, respectively. Particle size and density separations using tetrabromoethane and Clerici's solution were employed to determine Hg in < 1.8, 1.8–2.9, > 2.9, < 4.0, and > 4.0 g cm−3 fractions of clay, silt, and sand separates. A thermal fractionation of the soil was used to measure Hg loss at temperatures from 25 to 450°C.

Only traces of Hg were recovered by the chemical extractants, implying that very little existed in an adsorbed or easily soluble state. More than 90% of the Hg was recovered in the > 4.0 g cm−3 fraction. This, along with thermal fractionation and x-ray diffraction data, indicated that this Hg remained primarily in the α-HgS form. Loss of Hg in the tetrabromoethane separations and at low temperatures during the thermal fractionation suggested that Hg in both the colloidal and lighter fractions was organically bound.

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