Atmospheric mercury in the Latrobe Valley, Australia: Case study June 2013

Robyn Schofield, Steven Utembe, Caitlin Gionfriddo, Michael Tate, David Krabbenhoft, Samuel Adeloju, Melita Keywood, Roger Dargaville, Mike Sandiford

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Abstract

Gaseous elemental mercury observations were conducted at Churchill, Victoria, in Australia from April to July, 2013, using a Tekran 2537 analyzer. A strong diurnal variation with daytime average values of 1.2–1.3 ng m–3 and nighttime average values of 1.6–1.8 ng m–3 was observed. These values are significantly higher than the Southern Hemisphere average of 0.85–1.05 ng m–3. Churchill is in the Latrobe Valley, approximately 150 km East of Melbourne, where approximately 80% of Victoria’s electricity is generated from low-rank brown coal from four major power stations: Loy Yang A, Loy Yang B, Hazelwood, and Yallourn. These aging generators do not have any sulfur, nitrogen oxide, or mercury air pollution controls. Mercury emitted in the 2015–2016 year in the Latrobe Valley is estimated to have had an externalized health cost of $AUD88 million. Air pollution mercury simulations were conducted using the Weather Research and Forecast model with Chemistry at 3 × 3 km resolution. Electrical power generation emissions were added using mercury emissions created from the National Energy Market’s 5-min energy distribution data. The strong diurnal cycle in the observed mercury was well simulated (R2 ¼ .49 and P value ¼ 0.00) when soil mercury emissions arising from several years of wet and dry deposition in a radius around the power generators was included in the model, as has been observed around aging lignite coal power generators elsewhere. These results indicate that long-term air and soil sampling in power generation regions, even after the closure of coal fired power stations, will have important implications to understanding the airborne mercury emissions sources.

Original languageEnglish
Article number072
JournalElementa
Volume9
Issue number1
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 24 Mar 2021

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