Mercury concentration, speciation and budget in volcanic aquifers: Italy and Guadeloupe (Lesser Antilles)
- Autori: Bagnato, E.; Aiuppa, A.; D’Alessandro, W.; Allard, P.; Calabrese, S.; Parello, F.
- Anno di pubblicazione: 2009
- Tipologia: Articolo in rivista (Articolo in rivista)
- OA Link: http://hdl.handle.net/10447/36633
Quantifying the contribution of volcanism to global mercury (Hg) emissions is important to understand the pathways and the mechanisms of Hg cycling through the Earth’s geochemical reservoirs and to assess its environmental impacts. While previous studies have suggested that degassing volcanoes might contribute importantly to the atmospheric budget of mercury, little is known about the amount and behaviour of Hg in volcanic aquifers. Here we report on detailed investigations of both the content and the speciation of mercury in aquifers of active volcanoes in Italy and Guadeloupe Island (Lesser Antilles). In the studied groundwaters, total Hg (THg) concentrations range from 10 to 500 ng/l and are lower than the 1000 ng/l threshold value for human health protection fixed by the World Health Organization (WHO, 1993). Positive co-variations of (THg) with sulphate indicate that Hg-SO4-rich acid groundwaters receive a direct input of magmatic/hydrothermal gases carrying mercury as Hg0(gas). Increasing THg in a volcanic aquifer could thus be a sensitive tracer of magmatic gas input prior to an eruption. Since the complex behaviour and toxicity of mercury in waters depend on its chemical speciation, we carefully determined the different aqueous forms of this element in our samples. We find that dissolved elemental Hg0(aq) and particulate-bound Hg (HgP) widely prevail in volcanic aquifers, in proportions that highlight the efficiency of Hg adsorption onto colloidal particles. Moreover, we observe that dissolved Hg0aq and Hg(II) forms coexist in comparable amount in most of the waters, in stark contrast to the results of thermodynamic equilibrium modelling. Therefore, chemical equilibrium between dissolved mercury species in volcanic waters is either prevented by natural kinetic effects or not preserved in collected waters due to sampling/storage artefacts. Finally, we provide a first quantitative comparison of the relative intensity of aqueous transport and atmospheric emissions of mercury at Mount Etna, a very active basaltic volcano.