Total mercury, methyl mercury, and heavy metal concentrations in Hyeongsan River and its tributaries in Pohang city, South Korea

  • Mark Xavier Bailon
  • Anneschel Sheehan David
  • Yeongeon Park
  • Eunhee Kim
  • Yongseok Hong


Heavy metal contamination in aquatic systems is a big problem in many areas around the world. In 2016, high mercury concentrations were reported in bivalves (Corbicula leana) and sediments near the confluence of the Hyeongsan River and Chilseong Creek located in Pohang, a steel industrial city in the south-east coast of the Korean peninsula. Given that both the Chilseong and Gumu creeks run through the Pohang industrial complex and ultimately flow to the Hyeongsan River, it is imperative to determine if the industrial effluents have any impact on the mercury contamination in these two streams and the Hyeongsan River. In this work, we investigated the concentration levels of different heavy metals using cold vapor atomic fluorescence spectroscopy and inductively coupled plasma–mass spectroscopy. The metal concentration in the water samples from the Hyeongsan River, Gumu Creek, and Chilseong Creek did not exceed the limits for drinking water quality set by the US EPA and World Health Organization. However, the sediment samples were found to be heavily contaminated by Hg with levels exceeding the toxic effect threshold. Gumu Creek was found to be heavily contaminated. The concentrations of the different heavy metals increased downstream, and the samples collected from the sites in the Hyeongsan River near the Gumu Creek, an open channel for wastewater discharge of companies in the Pohang Industrial Complex, showed higher contamination levels, indicating that the effluents from the industrial complex are a possible source of contamination in the river.


Heavy metal Principal component analysis Sediment Hyeongsan river Mercury Methylmercury 



This research is funded by the Gyeongbuk Green Environmental Center under the Research Development Program (2016), Basic Science Research Program through the National Research Foundation of Korea (NRF) funded by the Ministry of Science, ICT, and Future Planning (grant number: 2015R1C1A1A02037559) and by the Korea Ministry of Environment GAIA project (2016000550002).


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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing AG, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Mark Xavier Bailon
    • 1
  • Anneschel Sheehan David
    • 1
  • Yeongeon Park
    • 1
  • Eunhee Kim
    • 2
  • Yongseok Hong
    • 3
  1. 1.Department of Environmental EngineeringDaegu UniversityGyeongsan-siRepublic of Korea
  2. 2.Citizen’s Institute for Environmental StudiesSeoulRepublic of Korea
  3. 3.Department of Environmental Systems EngineeringKorea UniversitySejong CityRepublic of Korea

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