Picture: Latrobe Valley. Credit: Bryan Yap (Flickr CC BY-NC 2.0).

Researchers report gaseous elemental mercury observations from Churchill, in the heart of the Latrobe Valley’s coal power generation fleet from June of 2013. Mercury values both day and night were significantly higher than the Southern Hemispheric average values. With an externalized annual health cost (2015-2016 values) of $88 million mercury emissions represent a significant health burden, though a small fraction of the annual total Latrobe valley’s health cost due to all air pollutants, which is ~$9.08B.

Using WRF-Chem modelling we were only able to reconcile the temporal variation of the mercury observations if we assumed high soil contamination, and therefore emission fluxes, in a 15km radius around each generator.

Such high soil contaminations have been observed in Spain and China, but no such soil survey for mercury has been conducted in Australia surrounding coal-fired power generators.

  • Paper: Robyn Schofield, Steven Utembe, Caitlin Gionfriddo, Michael Tate, David Krabbenhoft, Samuel Adeloju, Melita Keywood, Roger Dargaville, Mike Sandiford; Atmospheric mercury in the Latrobe Valley, Australia: Case study June 2013. Elementa: Science of the Anthropocene 21 January 2021; 9 (1): 00072. doi: https://doi.org/10.1525/elementa.2021.00072