Between recreation and brine shrimp commerce, Utah’s Great Salt Lake (GSL) contributes a significant amount of money to Utah’s economy. Therefore, it made big news roughly a decade ago when methylmercury results from the lake were found to be the highest ever seen in a body of water in the United States.

There are still many questions about mercury sources and mechanisms of mercury transport in the GSL, but great strides have been made in recent years. Research has shown that mercury bioaccumulation in the GSL is largely fueled by its unique geography that has caused the formation of a deep, anoxic, super-saline environment referred to as the “deep brine layer”. The highest mercury levels can be found in the deep brine layer and it is hypothesized that its existence is one of the factors involved with the unusually high methylation rates of the mercury observed in the GSL.

Erin F. Jones and Professor Wayne Wurtsbaugh of Utah State University just recently had their paper on the deep brine layer of the Great Salt Lake published in Limnology and Oceanography. This paper is very useful for understanding mercury issues in the Great Salt Lake and elsewhere. To find out more read the abstract online.

Brooks Rand Labs performed the low-level total mercury and methylmercury analyses reported in this paper for the Great Salt Lake water samples.