Oak Ridge National Lab brings 9,000 gallons of stream water indoors to study toxic mercury

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Water from local creeks now flows through these simulated streams in the Aquatic Ecology Laboratory, providing new opportunities to study mercury pollution and advance solutions. Source: ORNL, U.S. Dept. of Energy

OAK RIDGE, Tenn. (WATE) — Oak Ridge National Laboratory is rerouting water from local streams to better understand mercury pollution.

The lab is using nearly 9,000 gallons of stream water in a controlled, simulated stream bed in their lab to study the complex microbial communities in the water. The microbes in streams are responsible for mercury’s change into toxic methylmercury.

More than 2,200 metric tons of mercury are emitted worldwide each year. Much of it gets washed into waterways where it turns into methylmercury and is ingested by fish and shellfish.

Lab researchers are hoping to find a way to contain mercury, remove it and disrupt its transformation in the environment.

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