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MercuryMercury element

  • Mercury is a silver-white metallic element that is fairly uncommon in the earth’s crust. Mercury is used in thermometers, barometers, vapor lamps, mercury switches, advertising signs and in concentration of metal ores. Potential sources of contamination in drinking water include erosion of natural deposits, industrial discharge, runoff from landfills and croplands and runoff of atmospheric deposition from power plants.
  • The USEPA has set a drinking water standard of 0.002 mg/ L for mercury in public drinking water supplies. These regulations do not apply to private water supplies but the health implications are the same for private well owners.Coal burning power plant, a potential source of mercury contamination
  • The lethal dose of mercury is approximately 3 to 30 g. It would take over 30,000 gallons of mercury contaminated water at 10 times the USEPA standard to get a 3 g dose. The more likely type of health effect from Hg comes from low dosages over a long period of time or “chronic” effects. Kidney damage is the primary health effect from mercury.
  • Treatment of water for mercury can be accomplished with adsorption (i.e. carbon or charcoal), reverse osmosis, or distillation systems.

Additional Resources

Handbook of Drinking Water Quality; John DeZuane; 1997

USEPA Maximum Contaminant Levels and Fact Sheets:

http://www.epa.gov/safewater/mcl.html

Water Quality Interpretation Tool:

http://region8water.colostate.edu/wqtool/index.cfm