In Taiwan, because of the co-use of some irrigation and drainage canals, a portion of industrial wastewater was directly discharged into irrigation canals or even flowed into rivers or wetlands, causing the heavy metal pollution in waters and sediments. Mercury (Hg) contamination in rivers, irrigation canals, and wetlands has been found in Taiwan, but a thorough investigation on the distribution of Hg and methylmercury (MeHg) in these waters and sediments, which may be present in a greater level with elevating total Hg (THg) concentration and markedly impact human health, is still lacking. In this study, surface waters and surface sediments were sampled from five major rivers, two irrigation canals, two reservoirs, and one wetland in Taiwan, and their THg and MeHg concentrations were quantified. Additionally, statistical analysis was carried out to understand the relationship between sediment properties and MeHg levels. The results showed that irrigation canal sediments were relatively more polluted by Hg and the THg concentrations of some sampling points exceeded the upper limit (i.e., 0.87 mg kg−1) of sediment quality index (SQI) for THg promulgated by Taiwan Environmental Protection Administration, which may be attributed to the co-use of irrigation and drainage canals. Furthermore, the MeHg concentration in irrigation canal sediments was the highest; rivers came in second followed by wetlands. In addition, the Siangshan Wetland was analyzed to have the greatest THg and MeHg concentrations in its surface water. Linear regression analysis also indicated that total organic carbon and clay content substantially affected the MeHg production in sediments.
- Irrigation canal
- Surface sediment