Inﬂuence of a wastewater treatment plant on mercury contamination and sediment characteristics in Vidy Bay (Lake Geneva, Switzerland)
Previous direct observations of the sediment surface in Vidy Bay, Lake Geneva (Switzerland), revealed a range of sediment characteristics in terms of colour, texture and morphology. Dives with the MIR submersibles during the éLEMO project permitted the exploration of a large portion of Vidy Bay. It is the most contaminated part of Lake Geneva, due to inputs of treated and untreated waters from a large wastewater treatment plant (WWTP). To evaluate the influence of WWTP effluent on mercury contamination and sediment characteristics, 14 sediment cores were retrieved in the vicinity of the wastewater treatment plant effluent. Total mercury concentrations in sediments ranged between 0.32 and 10.1 mg/kg. Inorganic mercury and monomethylmercury concentrations in overlying and pore waters were also measured. The total partition coefficients of mercury (logKd) ranged from 3.6 to 5.8. The monomethylmercury concentration in pore waters of surface sediments was a large proportion of the total mercury concentration (44 ± 25 %). A Spearman test showed a negative correlation between the distance to the wastewater treatment plant outlet and the concentrations of total mercury in sediments and pore waters. Visual observations from the submersible allowed recognising six different types of sediment. The areal distribution of these different sediment types clearly showed the influence of the wastewater treatment plant outlet on the sediment surface patterns. However, no relationship with mercury concentrations could be established.