PREDICTING  MERCURY LEVELS  IN
                                                          New  England  Wildlife  through  Modeling
               S .  EPA
                                 SCIENCE  AT  THE  EPA   NEW   ENGLAND  REGIONAL   OFFICE
  SCIENCE lies at the heart of the mission of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The Agency must rely on cutting edge research, accurate
  measurements and effective technology to implement its programs to protect the environment and human health. Without sound science and credible data,
  EPA can not wisely set environmental and health standards, clean up contaminated sites, measure ambient air and water quality conditions, or identify the new
  technologies or practices that will reduce releases to the environment. These fact sheets shore with you some of our EPA New England's laboratory capabilities
  and exemplify some of the very best science we do to meet our agency mission.
                                 Data from field sampling indicate that many fish in New England lakes and streams have mercury levels that are
                                 unsafe for human consumption. As a result, all six New England states have issued fish-consurnption advisories, and
                                 have cooperatively developed a Mercury Total Maximum Daily Load plan outlining a strategy for reducing mercury
                                 in  fish in New England waterbodies. Data from field sampling also  show elevated mercury in many piscivorous
                                 (fish-eating)  birds (e.g., loons), which can affect behavior  and cause physiological  defects,  reduced  fertility, and
                                 increased rates of mortality. EPA is leading a team of mercury researchers in developing a GIS-based model (Mercury
                                 Geospatial Assessments for the New England Region or "MERGANSER") to identify aquatic ecosystems where fish
                                 and birds and. ultimately, humans (via fish comsumption) are at risk for contamination by mercury.

Environmental Scientist
(617) 918-168-4

Chief, Air Quj/ity
Planning  Unit

Senior Science Advisor
(617) 918-8660

11 Technology Dr.
North Chelmsford, MA 01863
(6I7) 9I8-8300

Since 2001, EPA New England, in partnership with  the
EPA Office of Water and the U.S. Geological Survey, have
collaborated with mercury researchers to gather data  and
information on mercury, including its sources, transport  and
deposition, and environmental responses. Although these
data have many uses, EPA New England scientists continued
to work toward developing a regional mercury model with
the realization that this might be  a one-time opportunity
to integrate such  a rich body of data. In 2006, EPA New
England was awarded  a grant to complete  MERGANSER
through EPA's Advanced Monitoring Initiative (AMI). AMI
projects "showcase" approaches suitable for  broad EPA ap-
plication. MERGANSER, which is expected to be completed
in 2010, builds  off of experience gained in developing  the
New England SPARROW model, which predicts nutrient
loadings in rivers, Success with SPARROW suggested that a
modified model could be used to assess another widespread
pollutant, mercury. MERGANSER will link atmospheric mer-
cury-deposition models with data on mercury sources, mer-
cury levels in fish and birds, and ecosystem features that may
be associated with elevated  mercury  in biota. The model
will identify variables (e.g.. low pH, watershed area) that are
significantly correlated  with mercury levels in fish and birds.
and use this information to predict contaminant levels in
aquatic ecosystems throughout New England.
Once  data  pertaining to independent  and  dependent
model variables are  gathered and quality-assured, the
project team will begin building the MERGANSER mul-
tivanate regression model for predicting mercury levels
in fish tissue. A second modeling activity will  develop an
empirical linkage between mercury levels in fish and birds
and associated species population effects, such as repro-
ductive impairment and behavioral  abnormalities. These
two models will be a major step in understanding how re-
gional and local mercury deposition and sources, as well as
landscape features, influence mercury levels in biota.

The MERGANSER  model will provide a statistically valid
tool for EPA and its partners to identify aquatic ecosystems
at risk for mercury contamination, and likely sources of this
mercury. Predicted contamination will be expressed as mer-
cury levels above or below fislxonsumption advisory levels
or in terms of ecological risk to birds. MERGANSER is being
developed using a GIS so that data and maps can be displayed
at various scales. Powerful model features will include the abif
ity to predict changes in mercury levels in biota resulting from
implementing various policy options and the identification of
optimal monitoring locations. Additionally, the model will be
useful for developing mercury models in other  areas of the
US where this level of mercury data is not available.
                                                  United States
                                                  Environmental Protection
                                   printed on 100% recycled paper, with a minimum of 50% poil consumer wosle, using vegefable-ba^ed inks
                                                                                                                       EPA-901  F09017
                                                                                                                             April 2009