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Investigation of mercury levels in soil around a municipal solid waste incinerator in Shenzhen, China

Abstract

Within the management hierarchy of municipal solid waste (MSW), incineration with energy recovery is a desired and viable option often used in densely populated and economically developed cities. The gaseous and particulate mercury (Hg) emitted from MSW incinerators may accumulate in the soil entering via dry and wet deposition. To investigate the soil Hg level and estimate the effects of the local meteorological and topographical characteristics (e.g., winds and terrain) on the soil Hg distribution, two layers of soil samples around an MSW incinerator in Shenzhen, China were collected and analyzed. Results showed that the Hg levels ranged from 0.012 to 0.136 mg kg−1 and from 0.013 to 0.100 mg kg−1 in the surface and subsurface soils, respectively. Long-term exposure of the soil to atmospheric Hg from the MSW incinerator dominates the spatial pattern of soil Hg. The wind frequency directly affected Hg distribution but not decisively. Interestingly, the variations of Hg level with downwind distance away from the stack were highly consistent with the terrain profile (r 2: 0.412–0.748). The effects of winds and terrain on soil Hg distribution and their mechanisms are discussed and general Hg dispersion patterns for transport on terrain are further proposed.

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Acknowledgments

This research was financially supported by the National Natural Science Foundation of China (Grant 20877002), and the “Shenzhen Double-Hundred Talents” program. Thanks the Shenzhen Environmental Monitoring Centre for assistance in instrument analysis. The authors are also grateful to Ying-Han Li for help on sampling and Prof. Eugene Leong for help on language improving.

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Correspondence to Yang-Sheng Liu or Hui Zeng.

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Wang, J., Zhao, H., Zhong, X. et al. Investigation of mercury levels in soil around a municipal solid waste incinerator in Shenzhen, China. Environ Earth Sci 64, 1001–1010 (2011). https://doi.org/10.1007/s12665-011-0918-y

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Keywords

  • Hg
  • Municipal solid waste
  • Incineration
  • Soil
  • Terrain