The Great Lakes eco-region is one of the largest sources of fresh water in North America; however it is chronically exposed to heavy metal loadings such as mercury. In this study a comprehensive model evaluation was conducted to determine mercury loadings to the Great Lakes. The study also evaluated the relative impact of anthropogenic mercury emissions from China, regional and global sources on deposition to the Great Lakes. For the 2005 study period, CMAQ 4.7.1 model estimated a total of 6.4 ± 0.5 metric tons of mercury deposited in the Great Lakes. The total deposition breakdown showed a net loading for Lake Superior of 1906 ± 246 kg/year which is the highest of all the lakes. Lake Michigan followed with 1645 ± 203 kg/year and 1511 ± 107 kg/year in Lake Huron. The lowest total deposition was seen in Lakes Erie and Ontario amassing annual totals of 837 ± 107 kg and 506 ± 63 kg, respectively. Wet and dry deposition of mercury were both significant pathways and exhibited strong seasonal variability with higher deposition occurring in the warmer months (June–November) and the lowest in winter. Wet deposition of RGM significantly influenced the deposition proportions accounting for roughly 90% of all mercury deposited. Of the three emission sources (global background, integrated planning management (IPM) and Chinese), global background concentrations represented the maximum impact to deposition loading in the Great Lakes, except for Lake Erie and parts of Lake Michigan. There was minimal seasonality for the global background, but differences in percentage contribution between dry (28–97%) and wet deposition (43–98%) was predicted. The contributions were seen mainly in the northern sections of the Great Lakes further away from IPM point sources. These findings suggest strong localized impact of IPM sources on the southernmost lakes. Deposition as a result of emissions from China exhibited seasonality in both wet and dry deposition and showed significant contributions ranging from 0.2 to 9%. The study examines total mercury deposited to the Great Lakes. Sensitivity test is done to assess source contribution. Wet and dry deposition are significant pathways affecting the mercury budget. Global background is the dominant source impacting the northern lakes. IPM utilities represent the highest contributor to Lakes Erie and Michigan.
Areas of Focus: Environment
Producing and using energy damages people’s health and the environment. EPIC research is quantifying the social costs of energy choices and uncovering policies that help protect health while facilitating growth.