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Dissolved organic matter reduces the effectiveness of sorbents for mercury removal...

Publication Type
Journal Name
Science of the Total Environment
Publication Date
Page Numbers
410 to 416

Mercury (Hg) contamination of soils and sediments impacts numerous environments worldwide and constitutes a challenging remediation problem. In this study, we evaluate the impact of dissolved organic matter (DOM) on the effectiveness of eight sorbent materials considered for Hg remediation in soils and sediments. The materials include both engineered and unmodified materials based on carbon, clays, mesoporous silica and a copper alloy. Initially, we investigated the kinetics of Hg(II) complexation with DOM for a series of Hg:DOM ratios. Steady-state Hg-DOM complexation occurred within 48 to 120 h, taking longer time at higher Hg:DOC (dissolved organic carbon) molar ratios. In subsequent equilibrium experiments, Hg(II) was equilibrated with DOM at a defined Hg:DOC molar ratio (2.4 · 10−6) for 170 h and used in batch experiments to determine the effect of DOM on Hg partition coefficients and sorption isotherms by comparing Hg(II) and Hg-DOM. Hg sorption capacities of all sorbents were severely limited in the presence of DOM as a competing ligand. Thiol-SAMMS®, SediMite™ and pine biochar were most effective in reducing Hg concentrations. While pine biochar and lignin-derived carbon processed at high temperatures released negligible amounts of anions into solution, leaching of sulfate and chloride was observed for most engineered sorbent materials. Sulfate may stimulate microbial communities harboring sulfate reducing bacteria, which are considered one of the primary drivers of microbial mercury methylation in the environment. The results highlight potential challenges arising from the application of sorbents for Hg remediation in the field.