In the United States, aquatic mercury contamination originates from point and non-point sources to watersheds. Here, we studied the contribution of mercury in urban runoff derived from historically contaminated soils and the subsequent production of methylmercury in a stream-wetland complex (Durham, North Carolina), the receiving water of this runoff. Our results demonstrated that the mercury originated from the leachate of grass-covered athletic fields. A fraction of mercury in this soil existed as phenylmercury, suggesting that mercurial anti-fungal compounds were historically applied to this soil. Further downstream in the anaerobic sediments of the stream-wetland complex, a fraction (up to 9%) of mercury was converted to methylmercury, the bioaccumulative form of the metal. Importantly, the concentrations of total mercury and methylmercury were reduced to background levels within the stream-wetland complex. Overall, this work provides an example of a legacy source of mercury that should be considered in urban watershed models and watershed management.
- Urban runoff