MERCURY EMISSIONS FROM COAL FIRED POWER PLANTS LOCAL IMPACTS ON HUMAN HEALTH RISK.

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A thorough quantitative understanding of the processes of mercury emissions, deposition, and translocation through the food chain is currently not available. Complex atmospheric chemistry and dispersion models are required to predict concentration and deposition contributions, and aquatic process models are required to predict effects on fish. However, there are uncertainties in all of these predictions. Therefore, the most reliable method of understanding impacts of coal-fired power plants on Hg deposition is from empirical data. A review of the literature on mercury deposition around sources including coal-fired power plants found studies covering local mercury concentrations in soil, vegetation, and animals (fish ... continued below

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97 pages

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SULLIVAN, T.M.; BOWERMAN, B.; ADAMS, J.; LIPFERT, F.; MORRIS, S.M.; BANDO, A. et al. December 1, 2005.

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A thorough quantitative understanding of the processes of mercury emissions, deposition, and translocation through the food chain is currently not available. Complex atmospheric chemistry and dispersion models are required to predict concentration and deposition contributions, and aquatic process models are required to predict effects on fish. However, there are uncertainties in all of these predictions. Therefore, the most reliable method of understanding impacts of coal-fired power plants on Hg deposition is from empirical data. A review of the literature on mercury deposition around sources including coal-fired power plants found studies covering local mercury concentrations in soil, vegetation, and animals (fish and cows). There is strong evidence of enhanced local deposition within 3 km of the chlor-alkali plants, with elevated soil concentrations and estimated deposition rates of 10 times background. For coal-fired power plants, the data show that atmospheric deposition of Hg may be slightly enhanced. On the scale of a few km, modeling suggests that wet deposition may be increased by a factor of two or three over background. The measured data suggest lower increases of 15% or less. The effects of coal-fired plants seem to be less than 10% of total deposition on a national scale, based on emissions and global modeling. The following summarizes our findings from published reports on the impacts of local deposition. In terms of excesses over background the following increments have been observed within a few km of the plant: (1) local soil concentration Hg increments of 30%-60%, (2) sediment increments of 18-30%, (3) wet deposition increments of 11-12%, and (4) fish Hg increments of about 5-6%, based on an empirical finding that fish concentrations are proportional to the square root of deposition. Important uncertainties include possible reductions of RGM to Hg{sub 0} in power plant plumes and the role of water chemistry in the relationship between Hg deposition and fish content. Soil and vegetation sampling programs were performed around two mid-size coal fired power plants. The objectives were to determine if local mercury hot-spots exist, to determine if they could be attributed to deposition of coal-fired power plant emissions, and to determine if they correlated with model predictions. These programs found the following: (1) At both sites, there was no correlation between modeled mercury deposition and either soil concentrations or vegetation concentrations. At the Kincaid plant, there was excess soil Hg along heavily traveled roads. The spatial pattern of soil mercury concentrations did not match the pattern of vegetation Hg concentrations at either plant. (2) At both sites, the subsurface (5-10 cm) samples the Hg concentration correlated strongly with the surface samples (0-5 cm). Average subsurface sample concentrations were slightly less than the surface samples; however, the difference was not statistically significant. (3) An unequivocal definition of background Hg was not possible at either site. Using various assumed background soil mercury concentrations, the percentage of mercury deposited within 10 km of the plant ranged between 1.4 and 8.5% of the RGM emissions. Based on computer modeling, Hg deposition was primarily RGM with much lower deposition from elemental mercury. Estimates of the percentage of total Hg deposition ranged between 0.3 and 1.7%. These small percentages of deposition are consistent with the empirical findings of only minor perturbations in environmental levels, as opposed to ''hot spots'', near the plants. The major objective of this study was to determine if there was evidence for ''hot-spots'' of mercury deposition around coal-fired power plants. Although the term has been used extensively, it has never been defined. From a public health perspective, such a ''hot spot'' must be large enough to insure that it did not occur by chance, and it must affect water bodies large enough to support a population of subsistence fishers. The results of this study support the hypothesis that neither of these conditions has been met.

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97 pages

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  • Report No.: BNL--75594-2006
  • Grant Number: DE-AC02-98CH10886
  • DOI: 10.2172/877288 | External Link
  • Office of Scientific & Technical Information Report Number: 877288
  • Archival Resource Key: ark:/67531/metadc874208

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  • December 1, 2005

Added to The UNT Digital Library

  • Sept. 21, 2016, 2:29 a.m.

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  • Dec. 12, 2016, 8:17 p.m.

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SULLIVAN, T.M.; BOWERMAN, B.; ADAMS, J.; LIPFERT, F.; MORRIS, S.M.; BANDO, A. et al. MERCURY EMISSIONS FROM COAL FIRED POWER PLANTS LOCAL IMPACTS ON HUMAN HEALTH RISK., report, December 1, 2005; [Upton, New York]. (digital.library.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metadc874208/: accessed October 20, 2018), University of North Texas Libraries, Digital Library, digital.library.unt.edu; crediting UNT Libraries Government Documents Department.