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Evaluation of engineered sorbents for the sorption of mercury from contaminated bank soils: a column study

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Environmental Science and Pollution Research
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As a global environmental pollutant, mercury (Hg) threatens our water resources and presents a substantial risk to human health. The rate and extent of immobilization of Hg2+ (hereafter, Hg) on engineered sorbents (Thiol-SAMMS®, pine biochar, SediMite™, Organoclay™ PM-199, and quartz sand as a control) was evaluated using flow-through column experiments. The effectiveness of the sorbents was based on (1) the percentage of Hg removed in relation to the total amount of Hg passing the sorbent column, and (2) the rate of Hg uptake compared to the nonreactive tracer bromide (Br−). All sorbents removed Hg to a certain extent, but none of the sorbents removed all the Hg introduced to the columns. Thiol-SAMMS showed the highest mean percentage of Hg removed (87% ± 2.9%), followed by Organoclay PM-199 (71% ± 0.4%), pine biochar (57% ± 22.3%), SediMite (61% ± 0.8%), and the control quartz sand (11% ± 5.6%). Thiol-SAMMS was the only sorbent to exhibit retardation of Hg in comparison to the conservative tracer Br−. For the remaining sorbents, Br− along with low concentrations of Hg were eluted within the first 3 pore volumes, indicating limited retardation of Hg. Overall, removal of Hg by sorbents was substantial, suggesting that sorbents might be suitable for deployment in contaminated environments. High concentrations of DOM leaching from the soil columns likely influenced the speciation of Hg and inhibited sorption to the sorbents. Incomplete removal of Hg by any sorbent suggests that additional optimization is needed to increase efficiency.