Because of the adverse effects of elemental mercury and mercury compounds upon human health, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) is engaged in an on-going effort to monitor and remediate mercury-contaminated DOE sites. In order to more cost effectively implement those extensive remediation efforts, it is necessary to obtain an improved understanding of the role that mercury and mercury compounds play in the ecosystem. We have conducted pilot scale experiments to study the bioavailability of mercury sulfide in an Armuchee (eastern US) soil. The effects of plants and incubation time on chemical stability and bioavailability of HgS under simulated conditions of the ecosystem have been examined, as has the dynamics of the dissolution of mercury sulfide by various extractants. The results show that mercury sulfide in contaminated Armuchee soil was still to some extent bioavailable to plants. After planting, soil mercury sulfide is more easily dissolved by both 4 M and 12 M nitric acid than pure mercury sulfide reagent. Dissolution kinetics of soil mercury sulfide and pure chemical reagent by nitric acid are different. Mercury release by EDTA from HgS-contaminated soil increased with time of reaction and soil mercury level. Chelating chemicals increase the solubility and bioavailability of mercury in HgS-contaminated soil.

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