Historically as part of its national security mission, the U.S. Department of Energy’s Y-12 National Security Facility in Oak Ridge, TN, USA acquired a significant fraction of the world’s supply of elemental mercury. During the 1950’s and 1960’s, a large amount of elemental mercury escaped confinement and is still present in the buildings and grounds of the Y-12 Facility and in the Y-12 Watershed. Because of the adverse effects of elemental mercury and mercury compounds upon human health, the Oak Ridge Site is engaged in an ongoing effort to monitor and remediate the area. The main thrust of the Oak Ridge mercury remediation effort is currently scheduled for implementation in FY09. In order to more cost effectively implement those extensive remediation efforts, it is necessary now to obtain an improved understanding of the role that mercury and mercury compounds play in the Oak Ridge ecosystem. Most recently, concentrations of both total mercury and methylmercury in fish and water of lower East Fork Poplar Creek (LEFPC) of Oak Ridge increased although the majority of mercury in the site is mercury sulfide. This drives the US DOE and the Oak Ridge Site to study the long-term bioavailability of mercury and speciation at the site. The stability and bioavailability of mercury sulfide as affected by various biogeochemical conditions –presence of iron oxides have been studied. We examined the kinetic rate of dissolution of cinnabar from Oak Ridge soils and possible mechanisms and pathways in triggering the most recent increase of mercury solubility, bioavailability and mobility in Oak Ridge site. The effects of pH and chlorine on oxidative dissolution of cinnabar from cinnabar-contaminated Oak Ridge soils is discussed. On the other hand, aquatic plants might be good candidate for phytoremediate contaminated waste water and phytofiltration of collective storm water and surface runoff and river. Our greenhouse studies on uptake of Hg by water lettuce (Pistia stratiotes) show that water lettuce is effectively removing Hg from water solution and Hg was mostly stored in roots. One day of growing could remove 93–98% of Hg from water solutions. However, Hg shows acute toxicity to water lettuce as indicated by decreases in fresh biomass and moisture contents.

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