Complexation of mercury by dissolved organic matter in surface waters of Galveston Bay, Texas
The chemical speciation of dissolved mercury in surface waters of Galveston Bay was determined using the concentrations of mercury-complexing ligands and conditional stability constants of mercury-ligand complexes. Two classes of natural ligands associated with dissolved organic matter were determined by a competitive ligand exchange-solvent solvent extraction (CLE-SSE) method: a strong class (L sub(s)), ranging from 19 to 93 pM with an average conditional stability constant (K sub(H) sub(g) sub(L) sub(s)) of 10 super(2) super(8), and a weak class (L sub(w)) ranging from 1.4 to 9.8 nM with an average K sub(H) sub(g) sub(L) sub(s) of 10 super(2) super(3). The range of conditional stability constants between mercury and natural ligands suggested that sulfides and thiolates are important binding sites for dissolved mercury in estuarine waters. A positive correlation between the estuarine distribution of dissolved glutathione and that of mercury-complexing ligands supported this suggestion. Thermodynamic equilibrium modeling using stability constants for HgL, HgCl sub(x), Hg(OH) sub(x), and HgCl(OH) and concentrations of each ligand demonstrated that almost all of the dissolved mercury (>99%) in Galveston Bay was complexed by natural ligands associated with dissolved organic matter. The importance of low concentrations of high-affinity ligands that may originate in the biological system (i.e., glutathione and phytochelatin) suggests that the greater portion of bulk dissolved organic matter may not be important for mercury complexation in estuarine surface waters.