Sources of mercury in groundwater and soils of west Gijón (Asturias, NW Spain)

B. González-Fernández (Corresponding Author), E. Menéndez-Casares, Mónica Meléndez-Asensio, Susana Fernández-Menéndez, F. Ramos-Muñiz, P. Cruz-Hernández, A. González-Quirós

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19 Citations (Scopus)


This work aimed to determine the cause of the presence of high concentrations of mercury in several springs that exhibit a low concentration of metals in the bedrocks of their recharge areas in Gijón, NW Spain and the extent of this contamination. On the basis of geological mapping, different lithological substrata were analysed at the regional scale with the objective of establishing the base level of mercury in natural soils. The mercury content was simultaneously analysed in several water samples, and the following parameters were also determined: major anions and cations, As, Pb, δ34S, and δ18OSO4. The soils of the recharge area of the springs exhibited Hg concentrations that were higher than the base level established for sandstone at the regional level, and four of the total number of springs analysed exhibited Hg concentrations higher than 1μg/l. In addition, the sulphate concentration exceeded the values that this type of aquifer shows in other parts of the region. A comparison between the regionally geochemical background of soils and mercury concentration in springs and soils of the study area did not exhibit a direct relationship, suggesting an anthropogenic and timely origin (most likely from industrial emissions) for this metal. The δ34S and δ18OSO4 values of dissolved sulphate from the springs with a higher Hg concentration also indicate an anthropogenic origin.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)217-231
Number of pages15
JournalScience of the Total Environment
Early online date3 Mar 2014
Publication statusPublished - 15 May 2014

Bibliographical note

This work has been funded by the research project CN-08-030 of the Spanish Geological Survey.

We are very grateful to the two reviewers, G. Devic and the anonymous reviewer, for their useful comments and suggestions. We also thank F.J. González-Fernández (Department of Organic and Inorganic Chemistry from the Oviedo University) for his help.


  • Geochemical backgrounds in soils
  • Isotopes
  • Mercury
  • Soil mercury leachate
  • Springs
  • Sulphate


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